Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 04, 2015, 06:28:07 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
88744 Posts in 2286 Topics by 1080 Members
Latest Member: Tedbo
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 518 519 [520] 521 522 ... 689
25951  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: CRISIS ECONOMICA MUNDIAL on: December 06, 2008, 09:39:58 AM
Hola Alfonso:

El tema es uno de tremenda importancia, pero en mi opinion ese articulo "no ve el bosque por los arboles" (traduciendo del ingles "Can't see the forest for the trees").

Por supuesto hay especulacion!  Por supuesto hay mentiras y trampas!  Siempre las han sido y siempre las sera'n sin que hayamos tenido problemas como tenemos actualmente.  En mi opinion la pregunta planteada es la siguiente ?Que ha sucedido que ha permitido los acontecimientos recientes?

En mi opinion la causa fundamental ha sido una tremenda aumenta de circulante monetario en anos recientes y manipulaciones de condiciones de credito.  Hace 5 anos (mas o menos) oro costaba unso $250 EU y ahora esta' arriba de $900 EU.  Esa politica ha manejado las burbujas en petroleo y "commodities" (productos crudos? como se dice?).  El exceso de dinero ha manejado las tazas de interes an nivles negativos, osea inferior a la taza de inflacion-- especialmente cuando se calcula tambien los impuestos!  En un ambiente asi' inversionistas se sienten empujadas a tomar riesgos mas y mas grandes.

La explosion de la burbuja fue inevitable.

En el caso de los EU, nosotros hemos visto nuestro gobierno manipular credito para estimular hipotecas a gente no capaz de pagarlas, pero garantizada por el gobierno federal--!Que estupidez! (Me refiero an Fannie Mae y Freddie Mac).  No debe haber sido sorpresa que esa estupidez se fracasara.   Hace 3-4 anos Alan Greenspan adviertio que el problema que crecia amenezaba a todo el sistema financiera pero los idiotas en el Congreso no le hicieron caso por que grandes intereses (especialmente Fannie Mae y Freddie Mac) se las estaban pagando "contribuciones".  !Y ahora esto pend*jos esta'n echando la culpa al mercado libre!  rolleyes tongue

Y ahora son como bomberos echando gasolina a las problemas , , ,
25952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 06, 2008, 08:14:09 AM

Thank you for your words, words which warm my heart. 

When I first started this thread, the number of "reads-per-post" (which tells me of the interest in a thread) was rather desultory, but over time it has risen to a ratio of over 60 RPP.   This number includes the time when the RPP was lower, so current RPP is even higher than that.

We share a belief in the profound importance of our American creed and the value of doing our part to see that it lives and is transmitted to the current and following generations!

25953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Somerville: Aping their betters on: December 06, 2008, 08:09:35 AM
Margaret Somerville | Friday, 5 December 2008
Aping their betters
If animals co-operate to benefit their community, does it mean they are ethical beings?

Recently, I participated in a round-table discussion, “Apes or Angels: What is the Origin of Ethics?” at McGill University. It was billed as honouring the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection.

The issue on the table was whether the ethical system that underlies "our unique social and economic system ... that leads us to rely on the support and co-operation of other individuals, largely unknown to one another" is simply the result of evolution through natural selection and a more advanced form of the social co-operation we see in animals; or whether "our social behaviour and the ethics on which it is based [are] uniquely human and owe nothing to the processes that govern societies of ants or bacteria. Our bodies may have evolved, but our ethics requires another kind of explanation."

In short, are ethics and morality in humans just one more outcome of natural selection through evolution, or do they have some other origin?

My co-panelists included world-renowned evolutionary biologists; distinguished academics specializing in researching the relation of economics and evolutionary biology; an anthropologist with expertise on co-operative behaviour in apes and monkeys; and a global leader in the field of evolution education, whose expert witness testimony in the U.S. federal trial on biological evolution, education and the U.S. constitution, contributed to the court ruling that the teaching of intelligent design in high-school science classes was unconstitutional.

I was a loner as an ethicist and, possibly, the only person who thought that humans were not just an improved version of other animals in terms of ethical behaviour.

First, we discussed whether we could say animals had a sense of ethics. My co-panelists referred to research that shows primates perceive and become angry when they can see they are not being treated fairly -- for instance, when one gets a bigger reward for a certain response than another. They explained that animals form community and act to maximize benefit to the community, including through self-sacrifice. They proposed that these behaviours were early forms of ethical conduct and that it was relevant in tracing and understanding the evolution of ethics in humans to know when these behaviours first appeared, in which animals, and at what point on the evolutionary tree.

This approach reflects a range of crucial assumptions.

First, that ethics -- and one assumes morality, as ethics is based on morality -- is just a genetically determined characteristic not unique to humans. Genetic reductionism is a view that we are nothing more than "gene machines", including with respect to our most "human" characteristics, such as ethics.

We probably have genes that give us the capacity to seek ethics. (These genes might need to be activated by certain experiences or learning. We can imagine them as being like a TV set: we need it to see a telecast, but it doesn't determine what we see.) I propose, however, that ethics consists of more than just a genetically programmed response.

Ethics require moral judgment. That requires deciding between right and wrong. As far as we know, animals are not capable of doing that. There's a major difference between engaging in social conduct that benefits the community, as some animals do, and engaging in that same conduct because it would be ethically wrong not to do so, as humans do.

My colleagues believed ethics were not unique to humans. Definition is a problem here. If ethics are broadly defined to encompass certain animal behaviour, they are correct. But if ethics are the practical application of morality, then to say animals have ethics is to attribute a moral instinct to them.

My colleagues' approach postulates an ethics continuum on which humans are just more "ethically advanced" than animals -- that is, there is only a difference in degree, not a difference in kind, between humans and animals with respect to having a capacity to be ethical.

Whether animals and humans are just different-in-degree or different-in-kind ("special" and, therefore, deserve "special respect") is at the heart of many of the most important current ethical conflicts, including those about abortion, human embryonic stem cell research, new reproductive technologies, and euthanasia.

Princeton philosopher Peter Singer is an "only a difference in degree" adherent. He says we are all animals and, therefore, giving preferential treatment to humans is "speciesism" -- wrongful discrimination on the basis of species identity. Animals and humans deserve the same respect. What we wouldn't do to humans we shouldn't do to animals; and what we would do for animals -- for instance, euthanasia -- we should do for humans.

MIT artificial intelligence and robotics scientist, Rodney Brooks, argues the same on behalf of robots. He claims that those which are more intelligent than us will deserve greater respect than we do.

In contrast, I believe that humans are "special" (different-in-kind) as compared with other animals and, consequently, deserve "special respect".

Traditionally, we have used the idea that humans have a soul and animals don't to justify our differential treatment of humans and animals in terms of the respect they deserve. But soul is no longer a universally accepted concept.

Ethics can, however, be linked to a metaphysical base without needing to invoke religious or supernatural features or beliefs. E could speak of a secular "human spirit" nature or, as German philosopher Jurgen Habermas describes it, an "ethics of the human species". I propose that ethics necessarily involve some transcendent experience, one that humans can have and animals cannot.

And I want to make clear that we can believe in evolution and also believe in God. The dichotomy often made in the media between being "atheist-anti-religion/pro-evolution," on the one hand, and "believer-pro-religion/anti-evolution," on the other, does not reflect reality. Evolution and a belief in God are not, as Richard Dawkins argues, incompatible.

The argument that it's dangerous to abandon the ideas of human specialness and that a moral instinct and search for ethics is uniquely human, was greeted with great skepticism by my colleagues, who seemed to think that only religious people would hold such views.

To conclude: "Do ants have ethics?" -- that is, Does the behaviour, bonding and the formation of community in animals have a different base from that in humans? How we answer that question is of immense importance, because it will have a major impact on the ethics we hand on to future generations.

Margaret Somerville is director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University and author of The Ethical Imagination: Journeys of the Human Spirit.

25954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Justice in Iraq on: December 06, 2008, 08:04:57 AM
Progress in Iraq is often measured in declining rates of terrorist violence, the number of provinces under Iraqi control, growing Iraqi troop strength, and the new U.S.-Iraq Security pact that received final Iraqi approval this week. But a pair of recent Iraqi court decisions also tells us something about the moral distance the country has traveled since the days of Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, an Iraqi court handed down a second death sentence to Ali Hassan al-Majeed, better known as "Chemical Ali." Mr. Majeed, a cousin and top lieutenant of Saddam, was first sentenced to die last year for using poison gas against thousands of Kurdish villagers in the late 1980s. This time, he stood trial for his role in suppressing the 1991 Shiite uprising in southern Iraq, in which an estimated 60,000 people were slaughtered.

In today's Opinion Journal


Bridge Loan to NowhereJustice in IraqOf Jobs and 'Stimulus'


Declarations: 'At Least Bush Kept Us Safe'
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Environmental Test
– Kimberley A. Strassel


The Weekend Interview: Andy Stern
– Matthew KaminskiHow the Credit Crisis Will Change the Way America Does Business
– Henry KaufmanIndia Is a Key Ally in the War on Terror
– Douglas J. FeithCross Country: A Property Tax Cut Could Help Save Buffalo
– Steven H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. WaltersDivorce Lawyers Could Use Subsidies Too
– Raoul FelderThink what you will about the death sentence -- and Mr. Majeed was initially spared due to Iraqi President (and Kurdish leader) Jalal Talabani's opposition to it -- it's hard to name anyone who has inflicted more cruelty than Mr. Majeed, and his sentence is of a piece with the justice meted to the Nazis at Nuremberg.

Now take the case of Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi legislator who visited Israel in 2004 and paid for it when his two sons were murdered the following year. Undeterred, Mr. Alusi returned to Israel in September, only to be sanctioned by parliament on the grounds that he had violated Saddam-era statutes forbidding travel to the Jewish state. Fortunately, Iraq's constitutional court disagreed, noting that Saddam-era laws don't apply in the new Iraq. Mr. Alusi will now be returning to his parliamentary duties.

It's a shame that Iraq's young democracy isn't prepared to recognize Israel, as Egypt and Jordan have. Then again, any state which sentences a man like Mr. Majeed to die while defending the rights of Mr. Alusi has put itself on the right side of history, and deserves our continuing support.

25955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mercator: Lawsuit goes to Supremes? on: December 06, 2008, 08:03:39 AM
Before he’s sworn in
The Supreme Court of the United States is about to consider a lawsuit alleging that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. If that were true, he would not qualify to serve as president. Sounds like an outlandish hoax, doesn’t it?

That’s what I thought when I first saw a copy of a lawsuit back in October, one of several it turns out, charging that Obama’s birth records were falsified and he is not eligible to run for president in the US. Which is why it seemed natural that his campaign would ignore it altogether, which they did. So did the media, though the lawsuits circulated widely.

Former Ambassador Alan Keyes, who ran against Obama for the Senate seat from Illinois, joined the suit. Okay, the story had legs. Should be easy to put to rest, right? After all, the Obama campaign had been so good at shutting down rumors and smear tactics before the election. And this only required a mere show of his actual birth records.

So why are they locked in a vault in Hawaii? People are asking, they have been asking, and are about to go public with their concerted effort to get answers.

Mr. Obama is respectfully requested to direct the Hawaiian officials to provide access to his original birth certificate on December 5-7 by our team of forensic scientists, and to provide additional documentary evidence establishing his citizenship status prior to our Washington, D.C. press conference on December 8.
A First Amendment Petition to any official of the Government for Redress of a violation of the Constitution is substantially different from the garden-variety political petitions frequently received by government officials.  This Petition demands it be given the highest priority for an expedited review and official Response by Mr. Obama.
As a formal “Notice of a Constitutional Violation,” the Petition naturally includes the People’s inherent Right to an official Response.  As a time-sensitive, election related Petition involving the Office of the President, failure to Respond as requested would constitute an egregious breach of the public trust and confirm the certainty of a Constitutional crisis.

This is no joke, and it’s not a hoax.

Today’s Chicago Tribune reports that the case is headed to the Supreme Court. The Justices will decide tomorrow whether to hear it, or dismiss the question of whether or not the newly elected president of the United States is actually…eligible to be.
25956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRO: Court Contradiction on: December 06, 2008, 08:00:45 AM

September 26, 2008 6:00 AM

Court Contradiction
Abortion on high.

By Sheila Liaugminas

For the first time in the 35 years, the Supreme Court has been asked to decide whether this statement is biological fact, or mere ideology: “Abortion terminates the life of a human being.”

Two U.S. courts disagree over what Roe v. Wade means for this issue, so there are now two Constitutions — one in New Jersey, the other in the Eighth Circuit’s six states. This kind of conflict increases the odds that the United States Supreme Court will step in, and a new case, Acuna v. Turkish, gives it the option to.

On September 29, the high Court will announce whether it plans to do so.

Acuna presents a compelling opportunity to address an issue that Roe sidestepped, and that now represents ground zero in the abortion culture. Roe considered only whether there was a state interest in protecting “the potentiality of human life” (yes, according to the court, but a very limited one that grows as the fetus ages) and whether the unborn were considered “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment (no).

The new case began just prior to Rosa Acuna’s abortion in April 1996. She asked Dr. Sheldon Turkish if her “baby is already there.” She wanted to know whether the abortion would terminate the life of a whole, living human being, or whether the procedure prevented a human being from coming into existence in the first place. What was it that the abortionist proposed to “evacuate” from her? To her, the difference was crucial.

According to Acuna, Turkish said, “Don’t be stupid; it’s only some blood.” According to Turkish, he said, “It’s just some tissue.” Based on that, she consented to an abortion.

A month later, she had a massive hemorrhage. Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to a hospital. Heading into the operating room on a gurney, she asked a nurse what was wrong with her. “They left part of your baby in you,” the nurse told her. She’d had an incomplete abortion.

Acuna was devastated. What the nurse said clashed with what Turkish had said. She decided to find out for herself at the local library. In medical and scientific books, Acuna realized that Turkish had lied. She became severely depressed, and it got worse over time. She sued the doctor, claiming he’d had the duty to tell her she was carrying an already-existing human being.

New Jersey trial judges denied Acuna’s claim. Her case bounced from trial to appellate court and back again. One ruling argued that since Roe had found that unborn children are not persons, Acuna’s claims had no merit.
In September 2007, the New Jersey supreme court — the last court that could hear the case, besides the U.S. Supreme Court — decided 5-0 that Acuna was not entitled to a more accurate answer from Turkish, because “there is no consensus in the medical community” that embryos are living human beings at six to eight weeks of age, as a matter of scientific fact.

However, Mrs. Acuna had put into the record scientific proof from internationally renowned biologists, embryologists, and geneticists that the embryo is an independent, living human being from the instant of fertilization. Turkish’s lawyers presented no evidence that contradicted this.
Court Contradiction

Meanwhile, in 2005, the South Dakota legislature passed the nation’s most thorough “informed-consent” law, requiring abortion clinics to tell women “that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” The law required doctors to disclose that abortion may cause women psychological harm, and that the mother’s relationship with the human being she carries is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Planned Parenthood asked for and received an immediate injunction in a U.S. District Court. The group convinced Judge Karen Schreier that the law infringes on the abortionist’s “right to free speech,” because the language of the informed consent was ideological and not biological.

An Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld Schreier’s ruling 2-1, citing Roe. The majority said “the factual underpinning” of Roe was the “finding that there was no medical, scientific, or moral consensus about when life begins, making the question of when a fetus or embryo becomes a human being one of individual conscience and belief.”

But then, all eleven judges of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case. They vacated the three-judge panel’s decision: In June 2008, a 7-4 majority decision threw out Schreier’s order, clearing the way for the informed-consent law to take effect. The court found that the state of South Dakota’s “evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician.”


While the State cannot compel an individual simply to speak the State’s ideological message, it can use its regulatory authority to require a physician to provide truthful, non-misleading information relevant to a patient’s decision to have an abortion, even if that information might also encourage the patient to choose childbirth over abortion. Therefore, Planned Parenthood cannot succeed on the merits of its claim that [the informed consent law] violates a physician’s right not to speak unless it can show that the disclosure is either untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.

And Planned Parenthood, the court decided, could not show that.

We now have two major U.S. courts in direct conflict. The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld as biological fact the same statement that the New Jersey supreme court decided was simple ideology. This is a key constitutional question, which may soon be settled in Washington.
25957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Evil Obsession on: December 06, 2008, 07:36:55 AM
The UN's obsession with demonizing Israel
By Jeff Jacoby Globe Columnist / November 30, 2008
THE PRESIDENT of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, last week denounced the policies of a certain Middle Eastern nation. They are "so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era," he said, "that the world must unite against them, demanding an "end to this massive abuse of human rights" and isolating the offending nation as it once isolated South Africa: with a punishing "campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions."

Of which country was he speaking?
Was it Saudi Arabia, where public facilities are segregated by sex, and where a pervasive system of gender apartheid denies women the right to drive, to dress as they choose, to freely marry or divorce, to vote, to appear in public without a male "guardian," or to give testimony on an equal basis with men?

Was it Jordan, where the law explicitly bars Jews from citizenship and where the sale of land to a Jew was for decades not only illegal, but punishable by death?

Was it Iran, where homosexuality is a capital crime - at least 200 Iranian gays were executed last year - and whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asserted at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran?

Was it Sudan, where tens of thousands of black Africans in the country's southern region, most of them Christians or animists, have been abducted and sold into slavery by Arab militias backed by the Islamist regime in Khartoum?

It was none of these. The General Assembly president, a radical Maryknoll priest who served as Nicaragua's foreign minister during the Sandinista regime in the 1980s, was not referring to any of the Middle East's Muslim autocracies and dictatorships, virtually all of which discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities. He was speaking of the Jewish state of Israel, the region's lone democracy, and the only one that guarantees the legal equality of all its citizens - one-fifth of whom are Muslim and Christian Arabs.

D'Escoto's call for Israel to be shunned as a pariah and strangled economically came on the UN's Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an annual occasion devoted to lamenting the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the 20th century, denouncing the national liberation movement - Zionism - that made that rebirth possible, and championing the cause of the Palestinian Arabs. The event occurs on or about Nov. 29, the anniversary of the UN vote in 1947 to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. There are impassioned speeches, in which Israel's sins are enumerated and condemned, and the statelessness of the Palestinians is bewailed. Unmentioned is the fact that Palestine's Arabs would have had their state 60 years ago had they and the Arab League not rejected the UN's decision and chosen instead to declare war on the new Jewish state.

Like so much of what takes place at the UN, the obsession with demonizing Israel and extolling the Palestinians is grotesque and Orwellian. More than 1 million Israeli Arabs enjoy civil and political rights unmatched in the Arab world - yet Israel is accused of repression and human-rights abuse. Successive Israeli governments have endorsed a "two-state solution" - yet Israel is blasted as the obstacle to peace. The Palestinian Authority oversees the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich, and wants all Jews expelled from the land it claims for itself - yet Israel is labeled an "apartheid state" and singled out for condemnation and ostracism.

Make no mistake: In likening Israel to apartheid-era South Africa, the UN is engaged not in anti-racism but in anti-Semitism. In the 1930s, the world's foremost anti-Semites demanded a boycott of Jewish businesses. Today they demand a boycott of the Jewish state.

"No good German is still buying from a Jew," announced Hitler's Nazi Party in March 1933. "The boycott must be a universal one . . . and must hit Jewry where it is most vulnerable." Seventy-five years later, the president of the General Assembly urges the world to throttle Israel's 6 million Jews with "boycott, divestment, and sanctions." There is no significant difference between the two cases -- or the animus underlying them.

When the UN adopted its odious "Zionism is racism resolution" in 1975, US Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan minced no words. "The United States," he declared, "does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act." Where is such a voice of moral outrage today?

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at
25958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tell me why on: December 06, 2008, 07:33:27 AM
Author Barrett Tillman has come up with some excellent additions to the Liberty Poll (, aimed at those who would seek to take away our guns:

"Tell me why you think a woman should 'lie back and enjoy being raped' instead of shooting a rapist dead with the handgun in her handbag."

"Tell me why black Americans should submit to being lynched instead of shooting the lynch mob dead."

"Tell me why homophobes should be free to beat up homosexuals without the risk of being shot."

"Watch Schindler's List and tell me again why only the police and military should have guns."

"Tell me why you think police should be able to shoot an attacker to save their lives but I shouldn't."

 "Tell me why I shouldn't have the best means of defending myself -- a semiauto firearm with a standard capacity magazine."

"Tell me why a woman's right to choose should not include weapon, mag size and ammunition."

"Tell me why you think I shouldn't be able to defend my life or my freedom."

"More than that, tell me why you should not have that right!


"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have" -- Thomas Jefferson
25959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 05, 2008, 07:44:54 PM
Today is the 75th anniversary of that blessed day in 1933 when Utah became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 21st amendment, thereby repealing the 18th amendment. This ended the nation's disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition.

Celebrating the end of alcohol prohibition, Dec. 5, 1933.
It's already shaping up as a day of celebration, with parties planned, bars prepping for recession-defying rounds of drinks, and newspapers set to publish cocktail recipes concocted especially for the day.

But let's hope it also serves as a day of reflection. We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

The change from just 15 years earlier, when most Americans saw alcohol as the root of the problem and voted to ban it, was dramatic. Prohibition's failure to create an Alcohol Free Society sank in quickly. Booze flowed as readily as before, but now it was illicit, filling criminal coffers at taxpayer expense.

Some opponents of prohibition pointed to Al Capone and increasing crime, violence and corruption. Others were troubled by the labeling of tens of millions of Americans as criminals, overflowing prisons, and the consequent broadening of disrespect for the law. Americans were disquieted by dangerous expansions of federal police powers, encroachments on individual liberties, increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the prohibition laws, and the billions in forgone tax revenues. And still others were disturbed by the specter of so many citizens blinded, paralyzed and killed by poisonous moonshine and industrial alcohol.

Supporters of prohibition blamed the consumers, and some went so far as to argue that those who violated the laws deserved whatever ills befell them. But by 1933, most Americans blamed prohibition itself.

When repeal came, it was not just with the support of those with a taste for alcohol, but also those who disliked and even hated it but could no longer ignore the dreadful consequences of a failed prohibition. They saw what most Americans still fail to see today: That a failed drug prohibition can cause greater harm than the drug it was intended to banish.

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.

All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?

Why did our forebears wise up so quickly while Americans today still struggle with sorting out the consequences of drug misuse from those of drug prohibition?

It's not because alcohol is any less dangerous than the drugs that are banned today. Marijuana, by comparison, is relatively harmless: little association with violent behavior, no chance of dying from an overdose, and not nearly as dangerous as alcohol if one misuses it or becomes addicted. Most of heroin's dangers are more a consequence of its prohibition than the drug's distinctive properties. That's why 70% of Swiss voters approved a referendum this past weekend endorsing the government's provision of pharmaceutical heroin to addicts who could not quit their addictions by other means. It is also why a growing number of other countries, including Canada, are doing likewise.

Yes, the speedy drugs -- cocaine, methamphetamine and other illicit stimulants -- present more of a problem. But not to the extent that their prohibition is justifiable while alcohol's is not. The real difference is that alcohol is the devil we know, while these others are the devils we don't. Most Americans in 1933 could recall a time before prohibition, which tempered their fears. But few Americans now can recall the decades when the illicit drugs of today were sold and consumed legally. If they could, a post-prohibition future might prove less alarming.
But there's nothing like a depression, or maybe even a full-blown recession, to make taxpayers question the price of their prejudices. That's what ultimately hastened prohibition's repeal, and it's why we're sure to see a more vigorous debate than ever before about ending marijuana prohibition, rolling back other drug war excesses, and even contemplating far-reaching alternatives to drug prohibition.

Perhaps the greatest reassurance for those who quake at the prospect of repealing contemporary drug prohibitions can be found in the era of prohibition outside of America. Other nations, including Britain, Australia and the Netherlands, were equally concerned with the problems of drink and eager for solutions. However, most opted against prohibition and for strict controls that kept alcohol legal but restricted its availability, taxed it heavily, and otherwise discouraged its use. The results included ample revenues for government coffers, criminals frustrated by the lack of easy profits, and declines in the consumption and misuse of alcohol that compared favorably with trends in the United States.

Is President-elect Barack Obama going to commemorate Repeal Day today? I'm not holding my breath. Nor do I expect him to do much to reform the nation's drug laws apart from making good on a few of the commitments he made during the campaign: repealing the harshest drug sentences, removing federal bans on funding needle-exchange programs to reduce AIDS, giving medical marijuana a fair chance to prove itself, and supporting treatment alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

But there's one more thing he can do: Promote vigorous and informed debate in this domain as in all others. The worst prohibition, after all, is a prohibition on thinking.

Mr. Nadelmann is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
25960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al on: December 05, 2008, 06:06:10 PM
The point of the original post in this thread seeming to be well-imbedded in the culture of the forum, I think it time to take this thread off of sticky. 
25961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Terrorism is piracy on: December 05, 2008, 05:16:07 PM
Piracy Is Terrorism
Published: December 5, 2008

THE golden age of piracy has returned. Just as Henry Every and William Kidd once made their fortunes in the Red Sea, a new generation has emerged, armed with grenade launchers and assault rifles, to threaten trade and distract the world’s navies. With the recent capture of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, a crime that once seemed remote and archaic has again claimed center stage.

And yet the world’s legal apparatus is woefully confused as to how to respond to piracy. Are the Somali pirates ordinary criminals, or a quasi-military force?

The question is not insignificant. It has virtually paralyzed the navies called to police the Gulf of Aden. The German Navy frigate Emden, on patrol this spring to intercept Qaeda vessels off the Somali coast, encountered pirate vessels attacking a Japanese tanker. But since it was allowed to intervene only if the pirates were defined as “terrorists,” the Emden had no choice but to let the pirates go. Currently, 13 vessels are held by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, while the navies of a dozen nations circle almost helplessly.

The legal confusion extends to what happens once pirates have been caught. In theory, any nation can shoulder the burden of prosecution. In fact, few are eager to do so.

Prosecuting pirates puts enormous strain on a country’s legal system. A state whose ship was not attacked, and whose only involvement with the incident was as rescuer, might balk at being asked to foot the bill for lengthy and costly proceedings. Yet it might find itself forced to do so, if neither the victim’s nor the pirates’ state is willing. As Somalia has not had a recognized government since the early 1990s, the situation is all the more precarious for would-be capturers. The result is that ship owners, knowing that no rescue is imminent, pay the ransom. This emboldens the pirates further, and the problem worsens.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this legal morass. Indeed, the law is very clear — we just seem to have forgotten about it.

The solution to piracy lies in the very nature of piracy itself. The Roman lawmaker Cicero defined piracy as a crime against civilization itself, which English jurist Edward Coke famously rephrased as “hostis humani generis” — enemies of the human race. As such, they were enemies not of one state but of all states, and correspondingly all states shared in the burden of capturing them.

From this precept came the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, meaning that pirates — unlike any other criminals — could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. This recognition of piracy’s unique threat was the cornerstone of international law for more than 2,000 years.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the current situation, the law is surprisingly clear. The definition of pirates as enemies of the human race is reaffirmed in British and American trial law and in numerous treaties.

As a customary international law (albeit one that has fallen out of use since the decline of traditional piracy) it cuts through the Gordian knot of individual states’ engagement rules. Pirates are not ordinary criminals. They are not enemy combatants. They are a hybrid, recognized as such for thousands of years, and can be seized at will by anyone, at any time, anywhere they are found.

And what of the Emden’s problem? Are pirates a species of terrorist? In short, yes. The same definition of pirates as hostis humani generis could also be applied to international organized terrorism. Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, “for private ends.”

For this reason, it seems sensible that the United States and the international community adopt a new, shared legal definition that would recognize the link between piracy and terrorism. This could take the form of an act of Congress or, more broadly, a new jurisdiction for piracy and terrorism cases at the International Criminal Court.

There is ample precedent. In the 1970s, the hijacking of airliners was defined by the United Nations as “aerial piracy.” In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro and held its passengers hostage, President Ronald Reagan called the hijackers “pirates.” Recent evidence also indicates that the Somali pirates hand over a part of their millions in ransom money to Al Shabaab, the Somali rebel group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

The similarities and overlaps between the two crimes have prompted some jurists to advocate abandoning the term piracy altogether in favor of “maritime terrorism.” By reasserting the traditional definition of pirates as hostis humani generis, and linking it to terrorism, the United States and other nations will not only gain a powerful tool in fighting the Somali pirates, but other incidents of terrorism around the world as well.

Recognizing piracy as an international crime will do something else: It will give individual states that don’t want to prosecute pirates an alternative — the international court. If pirates are recognized under their traditional international legal status — as neither ordinary criminals nor combatants, but enemies of the human race — states will have a much freer hand in capturing them. If piracy falls within the jurisdiction of the international court, states will not need to shoulder the burden of prosecution alone.

Today the world’s navies are hamstrung by conflicting laws and the absence of an international code. A comprehensive legal framework is the only way to break the stalemate off Somalia. In a trial before the Old Bailey in 1696, Dr. Henry Newton, the Admiralty advocate, declared, “Suffer pirates and the commerce of the world must cease.”

More than 300 years later, the world is suffering again. Fortunately, this time we have the answer.

Douglas R. Burgess Jr. is the author of “The Pirates’ Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History’s Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America.”

25962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting piece on: December 05, 2008, 03:10:30 PM
Interesting piece

Piracy Is Terrorism
Published: December 5, 2008

THE golden age of piracy has returned. Just as Henry Every and William Kidd once made their fortunes in the Red Sea, a new generation has emerged, armed with grenade launchers and assault rifles, to threaten trade and distract the world’s navies. With the recent capture of the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, a crime that once seemed remote and archaic has again claimed center stage.

And yet the world’s legal apparatus is woefully confused as to how to respond to piracy. Are the Somali pirates ordinary criminals, or a quasi-military force?

The question is not insignificant. It has virtually paralyzed the navies called to police the Gulf of Aden. The German Navy frigate Emden, on patrol this spring to intercept Qaeda vessels off the Somali coast, encountered pirate vessels attacking a Japanese tanker. But since it was allowed to intervene only if the pirates were defined as “terrorists,” the Emden had no choice but to let the pirates go. Currently, 13 vessels are held by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, while the navies of a dozen nations circle almost helplessly.

The legal confusion extends to what happens once pirates have been caught. In theory, any nation can shoulder the burden of prosecution. In fact, few are eager to do so.

Prosecuting pirates puts enormous strain on a country’s legal system. A state whose ship was not attacked, and whose only involvement with the incident was as rescuer, might balk at being asked to foot the bill for lengthy and costly proceedings. Yet it might find itself forced to do so, if neither the victim’s nor the pirates’ state is willing. As Somalia has not had a recognized government since the early 1990s, the situation is all the more precarious for would-be capturers. The result is that ship owners, knowing that no rescue is imminent, pay the ransom. This emboldens the pirates further, and the problem worsens.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this legal morass. Indeed, the law is very clear — we just seem to have forgotten about it.

The solution to piracy lies in the very nature of piracy itself. The Roman lawmaker Cicero defined piracy as a crime against civilization itself, which English jurist Edward Coke famously rephrased as “hostis humani generis” — enemies of the human race. As such, they were enemies not of one state but of all states, and correspondingly all states shared in the burden of capturing them.

From this precept came the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, meaning that pirates — unlike any other criminals — could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. This recognition of piracy’s unique threat was the cornerstone of international law for more than 2,000 years.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the current situation, the law is surprisingly clear. The definition of pirates as enemies of the human race is reaffirmed in British and American trial law and in numerous treaties.

As a customary international law (albeit one that has fallen out of use since the decline of traditional piracy) it cuts through the Gordian knot of individual states’ engagement rules. Pirates are not ordinary criminals. They are not enemy combatants. They are a hybrid, recognized as such for thousands of years, and can be seized at will by anyone, at any time, anywhere they are found.

And what of the Emden’s problem? Are pirates a species of terrorist? In short, yes. The same definition of pirates as hostis humani generis could also be applied to international organized terrorism. Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, “for private ends.”

For this reason, it seems sensible that the United States and the international community adopt a new, shared legal definition that would recognize the link between piracy and terrorism. This could take the form of an act of Congress or, more broadly, a new jurisdiction for piracy and terrorism cases at the International Criminal Court.

There is ample precedent. In the 1970s, the hijacking of airliners was defined by the United Nations as “aerial piracy.” In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists seized the cruise ship Achille Lauro and held its passengers hostage, President Ronald Reagan called the hijackers “pirates.” Recent evidence also indicates that the Somali pirates hand over a part of their millions in ransom money to Al Shabaab, the Somali rebel group that has been linked to Al Qaeda.

The similarities and overlaps between the two crimes have prompted some jurists to advocate abandoning the term piracy altogether in favor of “maritime terrorism.” By reasserting the traditional definition of pirates as hostis humani generis, and linking it to terrorism, the United States and other nations will not only gain a powerful tool in fighting the Somali pirates, but other incidents of terrorism around the world as well.

Recognizing piracy as an international crime will do something else: It will give individual states that don’t want to prosecute pirates an alternative — the international court. If pirates are recognized under their traditional international legal status — as neither ordinary criminals nor combatants, but enemies of the human race — states will have a much freer hand in capturing them. If piracy falls within the jurisdiction of the international court, states will not need to shoulder the burden of prosecution alone.

Today the world’s navies are hamstrung by conflicting laws and the absence of an international code. A comprehensive legal framework is the only way to break the stalemate off Somalia. In a trial before the Old Bailey in 1696, Dr. Henry Newton, the Admiralty advocate, declared, “Suffer pirates and the commerce of the world must cease.”

More than 300 years later, the world is suffering again. Fortunately, this time we have the answer.

Douglas R. Burgess Jr. is the author of “The Pirates’ Pact: The Secret Alliances Between History’s Most Notorious Buccaneers and Colonial America.”
25963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: December 05, 2008, 12:22:39 PM
A Coup in Canada
No Way to Run a Country
Life and Times of Harvey Milk

A Confederacy of Hosers

Canada voted only seven weeks ago to bring back Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government for another term, but this week a cobbled-together party coalition of Liberals, left-wing New Democrats and Quebec separatists almost threw him out of office. What began as a revolution ended as farce yesterday as it became clear Mr. Harper would keep his job.

Mr. Harper clearly blundered last month when he proposed to end the government subsidies that go to all of Canada's political parties, a move that advantaged his incumbent administration's ability to collect private donations. The outraged three opposition parties promptly met and signed a coalition agreement in which they would vote "no confidence" in Mr. Harper's government and take over with a slim majority. The Liberals and New Democrats would govern with the Bloc Quebecois providing support in exchange for more concessions on financial aid and autonomy.

The problem is that Canadians had just voted, and having parties that recently lost an election take power without a new election struck many as profoundly undemocratic. A Globe and Mail poll found that some 60% of Canadians opposed the deal. The poll also found that, if a new election were held today, the Conservatives would win a commanding 45%, while the Liberals would get only 24% and the New Democrats a mere 14%. Just seven weeks ago, the Conservatives had won re-election with 37%.

When all was said and done, the movement opposing Mr. Harper quickly unraveled once he met with Canada's Governor-General, the country's head of state, and won her approval to shut down Parliament till January 26. With Parliament not in session, there was no way the "no confidence" vote could be held next week as planned.

David McGuinty, a Liberal member of Parliament from Ottawa, summed up developments by saying the Governor-General had effectively given a tongue lashing to all players in the drama and told them to go home and play nice. It certainly looks as if no one comes out of this episode with political stature enhanced.

-- John Fund

Uh-oh, Canada

Just as U.S. voters are heading left, Canada's seemed to be heading right. But then Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper blew up his coalition this week (see above). If he doesn't patch it back together by the time Parliament reconvenes in late January, his government could still fall and be replaced by a coalition of parties never chosen by voters.

Even sillier, the new prime minister would be the head of the defeated Liberal Party. Right now that honor belongs to Stephane Dion, who actually resigned as party head after the LP's terrible performance at the polls. His successor won't be named until May, so Mr. Dion would serve as the head of government until then. In other words, Canada would be led by the lame-duck chief of a party that was rejected at the polls two elections in a row. He would then be replaced by a member of Parliament who'd never been subjected to voter scrutiny as the government's possible leader.

-- Michael Philips

The Club for Breaking Even

Republican Tom McClintock finally won his race for a California House seat yesterday, after the district's counties turned in their final vote tallies to the secretary of state, giving Mr. McClintock a lead of nearly 1,800 votes over retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown. Mr. McClintock, the leading spokesman for Southern California conservatives, had been term-limited out of his state senate seat.

His victory is also a victory for the anti-tax Club for Growth, boosting its winning percentage in House and Senate races to .500. Mr. McClintock's Democratic opponent conceded the race rather than request a recount in the tight contest, giving the Club -- whose PAC spends money in support of candidates with anti-tax platforms -- eight wins and eight losses at the end of the 2008 general election season.

Of course, that decent-sounding record is somewhat dimmed by the fact that four of the Club's eight losses were incumbents. These include New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and three House Republicans: Florida's Tom Feeney, Idaho's Bill Sali and Tim Walberg of Michigan. On the other hand, the Club can boast knocking off freshman Democrat Rep. Nick Lampson, who occupied Tom DeLay's old suburban Houston seat. He was beaten by the Club-supported former Pentagon aide Pete Olson.

But Mr. Walberg's loss in Michigan's 7th District is particularly significant. In 2006, he became the first Club-backed candidate to oust a fellow Republican in a primary. He defeated GOP moderate Rep. Joe Schwarz and then went on to win by just four points against an underfunded Democrat in that year's general election. This year, though, he lost to Democrat Mark Schauer by three points.

A similar outcome in Maryland gave the last laugh to another moderate Republican unseated with the Club's help -- Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a nine-term congressman in Maryland's 1st Congressional District. Mr. Gilchrest had faced primary challenges before, but he fell victim back in February to Andy Harris, for whom the Club offered substantial financial backing. Mr. Gilchrest went on to endorse Mr. Harris's Democratic opponent, Frank Kratovil, who won by fewer than 3,000 votes last month.

Club for Growth President Pat Toomey knew it was a difficult year for Republicans and made the best of his group's break-even performance. "As the Republican Party struggles to rebuild itself in the coming months and years, these conservative stalwarts will be major players in that crucial effort," he said.

-- Kyle Trygstad,

Got 'Milk'?

You can bet that "Milk," the new film starring Sean Penn as the first openly gay politician elected to office in a major city, will be an Oscar contender. Ballots for the Academy Awards will be cast early next year in the aftermath of California's passage of Proposition 8, a statewide ban on gay marriage. Already, the film has been caught up in politics as some are urging a nationwide boycott against Cinemark movie theaters after Cinemark CEO Alan Stock donated $10,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. "He should not profit from now showing 'Milk' in his theaters," says the boycott Web site.

Politics aside, "Milk" is a fascinating celebration of a man who was both a symbol of gay empowerment and a martyr to gay rights. The film premiered on the 30th anniversary of his death in 1978. Harvey Milk only served as a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors for 11 months before he, along with Mayor George Moscone, was gunned down at age 48 by Dan White, a former Supervisor who nursed political grudges against both men. White was convicted only of manslaughter after putting up a preposterous defense that too much junk food had impaired his judgment -- a foretaste of even stranger legal arguments in later years as more and more people have sought to avoid responsibility for their actions.

Milk is celebrated in the film for his aggressive leadership on gay rights, especially for helping defeat the Briggs Initiative in 1978, which would have banned gays from teaching in public schools -- a measure also opposed by Ronald Reagan and many conservatives. But the story of Harvey Milk as a politician was more complicated than his sexual orientation. At the heart of all of his campaigns was the notion that government had to be responsive to the rights of individuals.

Although he espoused left-wing politics in his later years, Milk was a political conservative until he was almost 40. He had served as a Navy officer, worked on Wall Street and enthusiastically handed out flyers for Barry Goldwater at subway stops in Manhattan in 1964. It was the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia that most influenced his move to the left. In 1970, he settled in San Francisco and opened an independent camera store in the then-emerging gay neighborhood around Castro Street.

His interest in local politics began when, not long after opening his business, he was visited by a state bureaucrat who demanded a pre-payment of sales taxes on products he hadn't yet sold. Next, a local public school teacher asked if he could borrow a film projector because none of those at his school worked. Then a local business association tried to discourage city bureaucrats from issuing business licenses to gays. Milk promptly organized the still-popular Castro Street Fair to demonstrate the clout of the gay business community.

He ran for office several times, appealing for gay votes but also as an angry populist demanding government accountability. "Milk has something for everybody," was his slogan.

Despite some unfortunate political correctness, the film "Milk" is a powerful statement in favor of tolerance and the power of one individual to bring about change. Like Spike Lee's "Malcolm X," the film takes a controversial historical figure about whom many people have only a sketchy idea and makes him both human and accessible.

-- John Fund

25964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: December 05, 2008, 12:19:13 PM
ospitals Now a Theater in Mexico’s Drug War


December 5, 2008

Hospitals Now a Theater in Mexico’s Drug War


The sedated patient, his bullet wounds still fresh from a shootout the night before, was lying on a gurney in the intensive care unit of a prestigious private hospital here late last month with intravenous fluids dripping into his arm. Suddenly, steel-faced gunmen barged in and filled him with even more bullets. This time, he was dead for sure.

Hit men pursuing rivals into intensive care units and emergency rooms. Shootouts in lobbies and corridors. Doctors kidnapped and held for ransom, or threatened with death if a wounded gunman dies under their care. With alarming speed, Mexico’s violent drug war is finding its way into the seeming sanctuary of the nation’s hospitals, shaking the health care system and leaving workers fearing for their lives while trying to save the lives of others.

“Remember that hospital scene from ‘The Godfather?’ ” asked Dr. Héctor Rico, an otolaryngologist here, speaking about the part in which Michael Corleone saves his hospitalized father from a hit squad. “That’s how we live.”

An explosion of violence connected with Mexico’s powerful drug cartels has left more than 5,000 people dead so far this year, nearly twice the figure from the year before, according to unofficial tallies by Mexican newspapers. The border region of the United States and Mexico, critical to the cartels’ trafficking operation, has been the most violent turf of all, with 60 percent of all killings in the country last month occurring in the states of Chihuahua and Baja California, the government says. And it has raised fears that violence could spill across the border, because dozens of victims of drug violence have been treated at an El Paso hospital in the last year.

The federal government argues that the rising death toll reflects President Felipe Calderón’s aggressive stance toward the cartels, which has forced traffickers into a bitter war over the dwindling turf that remains.

In fact, most of the deaths do appear to be the result of infighting among traffickers. But plenty of innocent people are dying too, and the spate of horrifying killings — bodies are routinely decapitated or otherwise mutilated and left in public places with handwritten notes propped up nearby — has left people from all walks of life worried that they might be next.

“If a patient is in the E.R. bleeding, we should be focused on the wounds,” said Dr. Rico, who has led doctors in street demonstrations to protest the rising violence in and around Tijuana, where 170 bodies were discovered in November alone, the bloodiest month on record. “Now we have to watch our backs and worry about someone barging in with a gun.”

Doctors feel particularly vulnerable. When they leave their offices, they say they face the risk of being kidnapped and held for ransom, as about two dozen local physicians have been in the last few years. Doctors also complain about receiving blunt threats from patients or patients’ relatives. “Sálvame o te mato,” save me or I will kill you, is what one orthopedic surgeon said he was told by a patient, who evidently did not grasp the contradiction.

Adding to the anxiety, hospitals and health care workers have to notify the authorities when a patient comes in with a gunshot or knife wound, a legal requirement that the traffickers know well. That leads to further threats.

Then, there is the risk of shootouts.

Authorities suspect that the killers and the victim in the intensive care unit at the private hospital, Hospital del Prado, had links to the drug cartels that are wreaking so much havoc across Mexico. Nowhere to be found were the police, who received a call from the hospital authorities when the shooting victim, who was in his 20s, first arrived, as is required by law. The police did not show up until after the gunmen had come and gone and bullet casings littered the hospital floor.

Hospital General de Tijuana, the city’s main public hospital, has twice been ringed by police officers and soldiers in the past 20 months. The first time, in April 2007, gunmen stormed the building either to rescue a fellow cartel member who was being treated in the emergency room or to kill a rival, said the police, who were not certain which scenario it was. Two police officers were killed, and all but one of the gunmen got away.

A video taken by a hospital worker revealed a terrifying scene, with two state police officers firing inside the emergency room to protect patients while doctors, nurses and others cowered in closets, under gurneys and wherever else they could find cover.

An elderly woman in a wheelchair is seen hiding under a blanket, while a patient in a hospital gown is sprawled on the floor near his hospital bed.

Meanwhile, panicked patients were escorted out of the building, some with IVs in their arms, to a nearby sports field.

The second time was this past April, when soldiers in camouflage ringed Hospital General de Tijuana, shutting it down while doctors treated eight traffickers who were wounded in various shootouts in the city. The Mexican Army was apparently trying to prevent a repeat of the 2007 shootout. In a recent third episode, soldiers were sent to the hospital for a bomb scare.

“Fear has become part of our lives,” said one of the doctors at Hospital General de Tijuana, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from organized-crime figures. “There’s panic. We don’t know when the shooting is going to break out again.”

The violence is already affecting service, as hospitals armor themselves with more police officers and guards. To protest the spate of killings, some doctors closed their offices for a day in November. And Tijuana clinics are closing earlier on a regular basis, with more and more doctors shunning late-night medical care as too risky.

In Ciudad Juárez, which abuts El Paso, the local Red Cross hospital called a halt to 24-hour emergency service earlier in the year after gunmen killed four people who were being treated for gunshot wounds. Emergency service now ends at 10 p.m.

Paramedics in Ciudad Juárez temporarily stopped treating gunshot victims one day in August after receiving death threats over their emergency radios. They resumed ambulance service later the same day, but only after they were provided armed police escorts.

An episode that took place in the early morning hours of Oct. 5 in Tijuana shows the complicated new environment in which health care workers find themselves. After a major shootout, two wounded men were carried to Clínica Londres, a private health clinic that was closed for the night. There was a lone nurse inside the locked facility, tending to the patients there, and she initially did not open up to the small group of anxious people outside.

The nurse was not qualified to treat gunshot victims, and the clinic did not offer emergency care. But the crowd outside included two men dressed in law enforcement uniforms, who banged menacingly on the door.

Frightened of the men in uniform — criminals routinely wear police uniforms in Mexico — she eventually relented, she told authorities. What happened next is shrouded in confusion.

Tipped off, the army and the police arrived at the clinic and asked the nurse and two other employees who had since arrived if they were treating gunshot victims, and they were told no. Then, hearing a groan from another room, the authorities discovered the two wounded men — the men in uniform had already fled — and accused the health care workers and the group of people who arrived with the patients of having links to the drug traffickers.

The clinic workers, who have been detained for two months while authorities decide whether to charge them, deny that they did anything wrong. “It is not true that this is a narco-clinic,” said their lawyer, Rafael Flores Esquerro.

Another Tijuana doctor, Fernando Guzmán Cordero, has also found himself denying connections to traffickers. Dr. Guzmán, a prominent general surgeon, was kidnapped in April and suffered a bullet wound to his leg. But the kidnappers released him 36 hours later, even giving him cab fare home.

Then two weeks later, after another Tijuana shootout, a group of gunshot victims were taken to his clinic for treatment. In radio call-in shows and on Internet chat sites, local residents wondered whether the traffickers were now in cahoots with Dr. Guzmán, something he vehemently denied.

“People can say whatever they want,” he said. “They say I kidnapped myself or made a pact with them. They say a million things. I know who I am. Why would I get involved with criminals?”

The problem everyone in Tijuana faces, no matter their line of work, is that they might be associating with traffickers without even knowing it. Doctors say they now screen their patients carefully. Traffickers pay well and in cash, but they are not worth the trouble they bring, doctors say.

But hospitals do not have that luxury. “We’re not judges,” said Carolina Aubanel Riedel, whose family owns Hospital del Prado. “We treat those who arrive.”
25965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: December 05, 2008, 12:15:42 PM
I strongly support self-defense laws and this article does not.  I post it because it reports on an important subject.

AP Enterprise: Deaths loom over self-defense laws

Friday, December 05, 2008
By SHELIA BYRD, Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. —
A convenience store clerk chased down a man and shot him dead over a case of beer this summer and was charged with murder. A week later, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store followed and fatally shot a man he said tried to rob him, and authorities let him go without charges.

Police say the robber in the second case was armed, while the man accused of stealing beer was not.

Just the same, the legal plights of the two clerks highlight the uncertain impact of National Rifle Association-backed laws sweeping the nation that make it easier to justify shooting in self-defense.

In 2006, Mississippi adopted its version of the so-called castle doctrine, which lifts requirements that individuals first try to flee before using deadly force to counter a threat in their homes, vehicles or, in Mississippi's case, at work.

Gun rights advocates who have helped pass the law in 23 states since 2003 say it removes an unfair legal penalty for people exercising a constitutional right in a life-or-death emergency, though some police and prosecutors are skeptical of self-defense claims under the law.
An Associated Press review found a growing number of cases but no clear trend yet in how the law is applied or how cases will be resolved in court.
All a defendant has to do is establish a threat, and usually the other witness is dead. That shifts the burden to prosecutors and police investigators, who have to gather evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that deadly force wasn't justified, according to a report released this summer by the National District Attorneys Association.

"It's very difficult to prove a negative," said Steven Jansen, president of the NDAA. "It might be a little too early to get the overall effect through the court process because we're just seeing the cases enter the court and finding out how the judges are going to rule."

Sarbrinder Pannu, the first clerk, alleged that James Hawthorne grabbed beer from a cooler and left without paying for it. Police Lt. Jeffery Scott said Pannu followed Hawthorne outside the store and shot him twice.
Surinder Singh, president of the Jackson Indian Storeowners Association and a spokesman for Pannu, said Mississippi's law gives you the right to protect your property.

"For them, it's a case of beer. For us, it's our property," Singh said. "That person didn't have respect for his life. He put his life against one case of beer."

Police and prosecutors disagreed and charged Pannu with murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Pannu has not entered a plea and has declined to be interviewed.

About a week after Hawthorne was killed, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store chased and fatally shot a clown mask-wearing robber outside the store after he stole cash from the register. The clerk wasn't charged.

Police didn't release the clerk's name because he wasn't charged. As with Hawthorne's shooting, the case will be presented to a grand jury, though police said the second clerk was justified because he felt a clear and present danger.

"The first thing about it is that you want to fairly apply the law," said Scott, who helped investigate both shootings and pointed out that the second robber was armed. "The problem is that there's an exception to every rule."

Castle doctrine laws drew national attention when Joe Horn of Pasadena, Texas, shot and killed two men in November 2007 after he saw them crawling out of the windows of a neighbor's house, carrying bags of the neighbor's possessions. Horn claimed the shooting was justified by Texas' law, and a grand jury declined to indict him.

Cases this year have included a man in San Antonio who shot and killed an intruder who climbed through his bedroom window and a Lexington, Ky., man who shot through his house's front door, killing a man who had been beating on it. No charges were filed in either case.

A woman in Missouri, which enacted its castle doctrine last year, could still face charges for shooting her former boyfriend after he came through the window of her home. A coroner's jury in Adair County ruled that Jackie Gleason committed a felony when she killed Rogelio Johnson in May.

Prosecutors said the jury might not have understood the law and have asked the state attorney general to review whether to file formal charges.
The law's rapid rollout across nearly half the nation is largely the result of lobbying by the NRA. Most of the state laws, including Mississippi's, are patterned after Florida's.

Michael Edmondson, who works in the state attorney's office in Palm Beach County, said castle-doctrine claims have increased since the law took effect three years ago.

"You would rarely see a case prior to the change of the statute here in Florida," Edmondson said. "I can recollect a half dozen cases in the last year or so. Some successful. Some not."

Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA, dismissed concerns about the law being misused or misinterpreted, saying all cases are reviewed by law enforcement authorities.

The laws have become popular in a country that's grown increasingly anxious, said Mat Heck, prosecuting attorney for Montgomery County in Ohio, where a castle doctrine law went into effect in September.
"There really is a change in perception of public safety after 9/11," Heck said. "Citizens are just anxious. They fear attacks, not only from the terrorists abroad, but from residents here in our own country."
A lack of confidence in the justice system and the perception that defendants' rights overshadow victims' are other reasons cited in the NDAA report.

Heck said his state's law pertains to a person's home and car, and is only applied when someone has unlawfully entered.
"We tried to make it somewhat restrictive so it wasn't like the old wild, wild West," Heck said.

Pannu is free on $50,000 bond and has returned to work at the store, where jugs of candy clutter the cashier's counter and pictures of Pannu standing with $1,000 winners of scratch-off games are posted on the bulletproof barrier that separated him from Hawthorne on Aug. 17.
"The real debate is 'Can you kill a man for shoplifting?'" said Dennis Sweet, a Jackson attorney representing Hawthorne's family in a lawsuit against Pannu and A&H Food Mart.

"The guy was in his truck leaving," Sweet said. "He posed no danger."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
25966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 05, 2008, 12:07:59 PM
"There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable. Sir, in my opinion, it would be hazarding the public faith in a manner contrary to every idea of prudence."

--James Madison, Speech in Congress, 22 April 1790


Friday Digest — Vol. 08 No. 49
5 December 2008

"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and virtue is preservd. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." --Samuel Adams

Stupid is as stupid does
By Mark Alexander

After the most recent presidential election, when, as you may recall, our once great nation exposed its collective flank -- unmitigated ignorance -- to the world, a reputable pollster, John Zogby, endeavored to determine how 66 million of us could be so profoundly stupid.

 We reported his findings in our "Non Compos Mentis" section two weeks ago, including, for example, that 56.1 percent of Obama supporters did not know his political career was launched by two former terrorists from the Weather Underground; that 57 percent did not know which political party controlled congress; that 72 percent did not know Joe Biden withdrew from a previous presidential campaign because of plagiarism in law school; and that 87 percent thought Sarah Palin said she could "see Russia from my house," even though that was "Saturday Night Live" comedian Tina Fey in a parody of Palin.

The Zogby polling was designed to determine how much influence the media had on shaping public opinion, and, thus, the outcome of the election. Of course, establishing that the political landscape would look very different if the media were neutral is filed under "keen sense of the obvious."

However, a report issued last week by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute is more relevant to understanding why Barack Obama received so much support from those between 18 and 30 years of age -- support that put him over the top.

For the last two years, ISI has assessed the civil literacy of young people at American colleges and universities, testing both students and faculty. The civics test included a cross section of multiple-choice questions about our system of government, history and free enterprise -- questions to assess the knowledge that all Americans should possess in order to understand their civic responsibility and make informed decisions in matters such as elections.

More than 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 schools nationwide were given the 60-question exam. More than 50 percent of freshmen and 54 percent of seniors failed the test. (So they get dumber?)

This year, ISI went beyond the "institutions of higher learning" to assess civic literacy across demographic groups. The 2008 civics quiz asked similar questions to those asked to college and university students in previous years, but also included questions about civic participation and policy issues. The results were then subjected to multivariate regression analysis in order to determine if college and university graduates had a higher civic IQ than the rest of society.

As you might expect, 71 percent of Americans failed the test, with an average score of 49. Educators did not fare much better, scoring an average of 55 percent. As the researchers noted, "Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government, a minimal requirement for understanding America's constitutional system."

College grads flunked, answering 57 percent of the questions correctly, compared to 44 percent for high school grads.

Less than 24 percent of those with college degrees knew that the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States. Further, only 54 percent can correctly identify the basic tenets of the free enterprise system.

Would you be shocked to know that elected officials have a lower civic IQ than the public they ostensibly serve? Indeed, these paragons of representative government answered just 44 percent of the questions correctly. Almost a third of elected officials could not identify "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as the inalienable rights in our Declaration of Independence.

Our Founders, those venerable Patriots who signed our Declaration of Independence and codified the liberty that is declared in our Constitution, understood that liberty could not long survive an epidemic of ignorance.

According to George Washington: "The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail."

John Adams wrote: "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. ... Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties..."

Thomas Jefferson insisted: "Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. ... If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

James Madison agreed: "A people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. ... What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?"

Today, however, it would seem that ignorance is not only blissful but virtuous.
25967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 05, 2008, 11:54:20 AM
Much agreement with what Doug just said.

"the right saying government is for military, law and order and that's about it."

IF ONLY THIS WERE TRUE OF THE REPUBLICANS THESE PAST EIGHT YEARS!!  As Freki's post comments just now, the Republican Party is often the Patrician Party of the Pachyderms of Big Business.

There ARE people with the the Republican Party who can do this-- first and foremost IMHO is Newt Gingrich.  Unfortunately he allowed the Fred Thompson boomlet, which I suspect he was as appealing to the same constituencies as he would, to deter him from running.  Fred also can be an articulate advocate (see e.g. the URL of the clip of him I posted the other day on the Meltdown on , , , I think it was Political Rants) but by being a lazy fcuk during the campaign, he wasted the oportunity for Newt.

A busy day ahead of me.  This is all the comment I have time for at the moment.  I will close by commenting that if you want what I believe to be some rather good advocacy, then in this forum you have come to the right place  grin

Speaking of which, if we want to continue on this particular point, may I suggest that the Political Economics thread is where we do it?


25968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A poem on: December 05, 2008, 11:42:07 AM

 The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
 I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
 My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
 My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
 Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
 Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

 The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
 Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
 My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
 Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
 In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
 So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

 The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
 But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
 Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
 sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
 My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
 And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

 Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
 A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
 A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
 Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
 Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
 Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

 "What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
 "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
 Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
 You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
 For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
 Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
 Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
 I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
 "It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
 That separates you from the darkest of times.

 No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
 I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
 My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
 Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
 My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
 And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

 I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
 But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
 Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
 The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
 I can live through the cold and the being alone,
 Away from my family, my house and my home.

 I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
 I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
 I can carry the weight of killing another,
 Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
 Who stand at the front against any and all,
 To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

 "  So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
 Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
 "But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
 "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
 It seems all too little for all that you've done,
 For being away from your wife and your son."

 Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
 "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
 To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
 To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
 For when we come home, either standing or dead,
 To know you remember we fought and we bled.
 Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
 That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

 PLEASE, would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many
 people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our
 U.S service men and women for our being able to celebrate these
 festivities. Let's try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people
 stop and think of our hero's, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.

  LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
 30th Naval Construction Regiment
 OIC, Logistics Cell One
 Al Taqqadum, Iraq
25969  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: December 05, 2008, 03:49:26 AM
Ese sitio de "" esta' tremendo!!!!!!!!!!!!

El original en ingles de lo siguiente viene abajo:

La Agenda geopolítica: El Estudiante de Venezuela Movimiento se Gira Su 4 de Motor diciembre, movimiento del estudiante de 2008 Venezuela devolvió en el engranaje el miércoles como líderes de estudiante anunciaron una sesión de dos días de la planificación. El jueves, los grupos de estudiante comenzarán resumiendo una campaña contra la tentativa de Presidente Hugo Chavez para eliminar límites presidenciales de término por un referéndum constitucional. Según el anuncio del miércoles, los estudiantes instigarán protestas significativas a través de Venezuela y lanzarán un esfuerzo nacional de la educación para dibujarle atención a lo que ellos ven como los peligros de la oferta de Chavez para la reelección indefinida.

La última vez el movimiento de estudiante encrespado a la parte delantera del panorama político de Venezuela estuvo en el período previo al diciembre 2007 referéndum constitucional, cuando este muy asunto — junto con docenas de otros — fue puesto a votantes. Los partidos de la oposición y organizaciones de estudiante dirigieron protestas masivas a través del país — y mucho a casi todos sorprenden, el referéndum falló, a pesar de popularidad alta de Chavez en aquel momento. Esto fue en parte un resultado de los esfuerzos de la oposición, pero de también quizás había estado debido a la complejidad del constitucional reescribe, que fue soltado para el examen público sólo días antes venezolanos votan.

Esta vez, el referéndum será más sencillo: Habrá sólo un asunto y un voto. Venezolanos han experimentado casi una década de la regla de Chavez, y ellos están bien enterados de lo que ellos podrían significar si ellos deciden abandonar límites de término.

Al mismo tiempo, las condiciones en Venezuela han cambiado mucho desde que el 2007 voto. El país está en el borde de crisis económica, como precios del crudo globales vacilan y los caminos difíciles del gobierno para cubrir sus gastos. Con su petición para una enmienda constitucional, que vino pronto después de noviembre. 23 estado y las elecciones municipales que debilitaron su asidero en regiones clave, Chavez probablemente espera asegurar el cambio en límites de término en los próximos pocos meses, antes los efectos de la crisis financiera comienzan sinceramente a picar. Y está en estos pocos meses que la oposición de estudiante tendrá que girar arriba una campaña nacional.

Tenemos duda pequeña que esto puede ser lograda. El movimiento del estudiante de Venezuela es organizado bastante y tiene lazos fuertes al Centro para Acción y Estrategias no Violentas Aplicadas (anteriormente el movimiento de estudiante Otpor, que fue instrumental en la expulsión de yugoslavo Presidente Slobodan Milosevic en 2000). Los estudiantes venezolanos son organizados por una web interconectada que mantiene la capacidad para la coordinación logística al evitar la necesidad para un centro vulnerable de líderes prominentes.

A pesar de choques violentos con autoridades venezolanas, los estudiantes han estado relativamente bajo en el último año, con acontecimientos de oposición limitó principalmente a campus. La mayoría del recientemente, el estudiante agrupa demostraciones preparadas para favorecer votar en el noviembre. 23 elecciones. En esencia, ellos han estado reservando su fuerza por un día cuando hay apoyo bastante potencial de montar un desafío verdadero a Chavez. El referéndum próximo presenta oportunidad justo tal.

El objetivo, por supuesto, será de recuperarse suficiente apoyo para derrotar el referéndum y presentar un desafío definitivo a Chavez. Esto pondrá los grupos de estudiante directamente en el sendero de un presidente cada vez más agitado, y del potencial para choques violentos entre fuerzas de gobierno y protestadores sería alto. Aún más peligroso es el potencial para choques armados entre líderes de estudiante y chavistas equipó con rifles automáticos.

Aunque el asunto en mano será decidido en el día del referéndum (que tiene mas ser planificado), el peligro verdadero asoma en los meses venideros, como cayéndose rentas esfuerzan la capacidad del gobierno para sostener el gasto social. Dada la serie ancha de servicios que el gobierno venezolano proporciona, gastando reducciones podrían ser sentían en maneras dolorosas por el público — como gasolina más cara o, en el guión de peor-caso, escaseces aumentadas de alimento.

Vigorizando sus esfuerzos públicos ahora, dificultades antes económicas son más sentía intensamente, los estudiantes han dado a sí mismo en esencia un comienzo corriente. Ellos tienen los medios de la organización necesarios para desafiar Chavez; ahora todo ellos necesitan es apoyo público. La combinación de la campaña de referéndum más problemas económicos inminentes podría dar movimiento del estudiante de Venezuela justo lo que busca.

Geopolitical Diary: Venezuela's Student Movement Revs Its Engine
December 4, 2008
Venezuela’s student movement kicked back into gear Wednesday as student leaders announced a two-day planning session. On Thursday, the student groups will start outlining a campaign against President Hugo Chavez’s attempt to eliminate presidential term limits through a constitutional referendum. According to Wednesday’s announcement, the students will instigate significant protests throughout Venezuela and launch a national education effort to draw attention to what they see as the dangers of Chavez’s bid for indefinite re-election.

The last time the student movement surged to the forefront of Venezuela’s political scene was in the lead-up to the December 2007 constitutional referendum, when this very issue — along with dozens of others — was put to voters. The opposition parties and student organizations led massive protests across the country — and much to nearly everyone’s surprise, the referendum failed, despite Chavez’s high popularity at the time. This was partly a result of the opposition’s efforts, but it also might have been due to the complexity of the constitutional rewrite, which was released for public perusal only days before Venezuelans cast their votes.

This time, the referendum will be simpler: There will be only one issue and one vote. Venezuelans have experienced nearly a decade of Chavez’s rule, and they are well aware of what they it could mean if they decide to scrap term limits.

At the same time, conditions in Venezuela have changed a great deal since the 2007 vote. The country is on the brink of economic crisis, as global oil prices falter and the government scrambles to cover its expenses. With his request for a constitutional amendment, which came soon after Nov. 23 state and municipal elections that weakened his hold in key regions, Chavez probably hopes to secure the change on term limits in the next few months, before the effects of the financial crisis truly begin to sting. And it is in these few months that the student opposition will have to spin up a national campaign.

We have little doubt that this can be accomplished. Venezuela’s student movement is quite organized and has strong links to the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (formerly the student movement Otpor, which was instrumental in Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s ouster in 2000). The Venezuelan students are organized through an interconnected web that maintains the capacity for logistical coordination while avoiding the need for a vulnerable core of high-profile leaders.

Despite violent clashes with Venezuelan authorities, the students have lain relatively low over the past year, with opposition events limited mainly to campuses. Most recently, the student groups staged demonstrations to encourage voting in the Nov. 23 elections. In essence, they have been reserving their strength for a day when there is enough potential support to mount a true challenge to Chavez. The upcoming referendum presents just such an opportunity.

The goal, of course, will be to rally enough support to defeat the referendum and present a definitive challenge to Chavez. This will put the student groups directly in the path of an increasingly agitated president, and the potential for violent clashes between government forces and protesters would be high. Even more dangerous is the potential for armed clashes between student leaders and chavistas equipped with automatic rifles.

Although the issue at hand will be decided on the day of the referendum (which has yet to be scheduled), the real danger looms in the coming months, as falling revenues strain the government’s ability to sustain social spending. Given the wide array of services the Venezuelan government provides, spending cutbacks could be felt in painful ways by the public — such as more expensive gasoline or, in the worst-case scenario, increased food shortages.

By reinvigorating their public efforts now, before economic hardships are more keenly felt, the students have given themselves essentially a running start. They have the organizational wherewithal necessary to challenge Chavez; now all they need is public support. The combination of the referendum campaign plus looming economic troubles could give Venezuela’s student movement just what it is looking for.
25970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 04, 2008, 08:13:31 PM
"I am really attracted to BO's analytic approach."

His temperament/disposition seem quite good.

"I personally like the idea of dealing with our country's problems by getting all the ideas on the table and finding the best course of action."

And this is exactly what worries me.  It is simply another variation of "the best and the brightest" approach that has been tried before and left disasters in its wake.  There ARE certain Facts of Life that governmental edict cannot fcuk with.  It cannot repeal the law of gravity and it cannot repeal the law of supply and demand (e.g. taxes and regulations on productivity) or repeal certain Darwinian realities.  Ultimately it is Hayek's "fatal conceit" that the best and the birghtest are better than the Invisible Hand of the Tao (a.k.a. "the Market")

"BO learns all points of view and then tries to find something that connects the dots."   

And this too concerns me.  I worry that the man's gift for glibness leaves him deluding himself as much as it does others into believing that all conflict can be finessed.   It is no accident that this thread's name includes the term "cognitive dissonance"  evil cheesy  I hope he is not our next Jimmy Carter.

25971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Too fat to fight on: December 04, 2008, 06:25:26 PM
German soldiers deemed 'too fat to fight'
Thomas Coghlan in Kabul
First they were accused of not wanting to fight. Then they were blamed for failing in their main mission to train the Afghan police.

Now Germany’s battered military reputation has received a further humiliating blow. According to official reports the 3,500 troops in northern Afghanistan drink too much and are too fat to fight.

A German parliamentary report has revealed that in 2007 German forces in Afghanistan consumed about 1.7 million pints of beer and 90,000 bottles of wine. During the first six months of this year 896,000 pints of beer were shipped to German forces in Afghanistan. British and US bases in the country enforce a strict ban on alcohol.

The physical condition of the soldiers was already in question after a German armed forces report found that 40 per cent of its soldiers aged 18-29 were overweight, compared to 35 per cent of the civilian population of the same age.

The report, published in March, concluded that the Bundeswehr lived on beer and sausages while shunning fruit and vegetables. It said that an overdeveloped bureaucracy was also contributing to a “passive lifestyle” on the part of the soldiers.

Reinhold Robbe, the parliamentary commissioner for the German armed forces, concluded: “Plainly put, the soldiers are too fat, exercise too little and take little care of their diet.”

“Yes, it is true, the German soldiers in Kunduz are allowed to drink two cans of beer per day,” Lieutenant-Colonel Rainer Zaude, a spokesman for the forces, confirmed.

Even more damning is the allegation from a senior officer that Germany is failing in its main mission to train the Afghan police. General Hans-Christoph Ammon, the commander of the special commando unit, the KSK, described the efforts as “a miserable failure”.

The Government is also reported to have banned any reference to Krieg (war), in press statements on Afghanistan. Caveats imposed by the German Government limit the forces to operations in the relatively passive north.

Twenty-eight German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, including two in a suicide bomb attack in Kunduz province last month.

The Germans in Afghanistan

German Tornado aircraft are limited to unarmed reconaissance.  German Medevac helicopters have to be back at base by dusk. 
German forces limited to the northern areas of the country where there is a lower level of fighting (though the level of fighting there is now beginning to change)

US forces have been very frustrated by the caution of German rules of engagement - German troops operating alongside US forces have refused to open fire on occasion for fear of causing civilian casualties.

A trial is currently underway in the German courts following an incident in which German soldiers opened fire on a car that approached a checkpoint believing it contained a suicide bomb - several civilians died in the incident.

AP: Officers outgunned and underfinanced compared with insurgents
The Associated Press
updated 4:06 p.m. MT, Thurs., Dec. 4, 2008

BADABER, Pakistan - Brothers Mushtaq and Ishaq Ali left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.  They went straight to the local Urdu-language newspaper to announce their resignation. They were too poor to pay for a personal ad, so the editor of The Daily Moon, Rasheed Iqbal, published a news story instead. He has run dozens like it.

"They just want to get the word out to the Taliban that they are not with the police anymore so they won't kill them," said Iqbal. "They know that no one can protect them, and especially not their fellow policemen."

Outgunned and out-financed, police in volatile northwestern Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against insurgents, dozens of interviews by The Associated Press show. They are dying in large numbers, and many survivors are leaving the force.  The number of terrorist attacks against police has gone up from 113 in 2005 to 1,820 last year, according to National Police Bureau. The death toll for policemen in that time increased from nine to 575. In the northwestern area alone, 127 policemen have died so far this year in suicide bombings and assassinations, and another 260 have been wounded.

The crisis means the police cannot do the nuts-and-bolts work needed to stave off an insurgency fueled by the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the military can pound mountain hideouts, analysts and local officials say it is the police who should hunt down insurgents, win over the people and restore order.

"The only way to save Pakistan is to think of extremism and insurgency in North West Frontier Province as a law-enforcement issue," said Hassan Abbas, a South Asia expert at Harvard University's Belfer Center Project for Science. "Rather than buying more F-16s, Pakistan should invest in modernizing its police."

Bombings, beheadings commonplace

In the Swat Valley, militants have turned a once-idyllic mountain getaway into a nightmare of bombings and beheadings despite a six-month military operation to root them out. About 300 policemen have fled the force already. On a recent evening in Mardan, Akhtar Ali Shah had just slipped out of his deputy police inspector's uniform to head home. In an escort vehicle, a half-dozen of his guards had inched outside the giant white gates of the police station for a routine security check.

The bomb exploded minutes later. Through a cloud of dust and dirt, Shah saw five of his six guards lying dead near the blood-smeared gate. The head of the suicide bomber rested nearby.

"We are the ones who are getting killed by the terrorists that we are facing," Shah said later.

Al-Qaida-linked militants ferry truckloads of explosives from the tribal regions through Mardan to targets deep within Pakistan, often slipping past scores of police checkpoints. But Shah said his men lack the technical expertise, training or equipment to hunt down big-name terrorists or even identify would-be suicide bombers.  His voice laced with frustration, Shah held up his small black cell phone.

"These people are among us. Look here: Our technical capabilities are so weak that we don't even have the ability to listen or to trace these phone calls," he said. "How are we supposed to know who it is that is coming here to kill us and when?"

Surviving on $80 a month

Most of Pakistan's 383,000 police are poorly paid constables. Malik Naveed Khan, who heads the force of 55,000 in the North West Frontier Province, said he has one policeman for every 364 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain in the world.

"Insurgents can see when I go someplace and wait for me to return and kill me," he said. "It isn't my own death that I fear, but every time there is an attack, it demoralizes the whole police force."

Khan said his men fight with World War II-vintage, single-shot weapons against the rapid-fire Kalashnikov rifles carried by the militants. The police go out on patrol without bulletproof vests or helmets. And of Khan's 18 armored personnel carriers, six are 1960s-era Soviet models that break down so often he now sends a mechanic along with the police.

A Pakistani constable makes about $80 a month, compared with about $170 for a Taliban foot soldier, Khan said.  Even in death, militants do better than the Pakistani police. Militant groups pay more than $20,000 to the families of suicide bombers, compared with $6,000 given to a policeman's survivor, Khan said.

"Where is their money coming from?" he asked.

He said he believes a lot of it comes from the flourishing opium trade next door in Afghanistan, donations from devout Muslims and extortion of wealthy Muslims in the Middle East.

Lack of money, resources

Most police stations in Pakistan don't even have cameras to photograph the crime scene or criminals. There were two functioning forensic laboratories in Pakistan in 2001, and since then four more have been approved — a start, but far short of the 50 or so police say they need. Khan said Pakistani police also lack enough explosives-sniffing dogs to check the truckloads coming from the tribal region.  The Pakistani government recognizes the need to train, develop and equip local police, said Sherry Rahman, information minister. But she added that Pakistan has little money for such investment and needs help from the international community.

Most U.S. aid to Pakistan goes to the military, not the police. Washington gave $731 million for military spending last year and $862 million the year before, according to a September report issued by the Pakistan Policy Working Group, an independent, nonpartisan group. By contrast, the U.S. gave $4.9 million for law enforcement and the judicial system last year.  The crisis among the police is also hobbling the courts, said Imtiaz, a deputy jail superintendent who wanted to use only one name because he feared reprisals from militants and his bosses.  Interviewed at a central jail in northwest Pakistan, the jailer said he has been threatened repeatedly by militants who found his phone number. Late-night calls warn him to treat jailed insurgents with a kind hand.  He told of an insurgent caught by police and imprisoned for an attack on a girls' school. At the only anti-terrorist court in town, the judge — who had also been threatened — heard the case, listened to the militant's confession and then acquitted him, Imtiaz said.

"No one believes the police can protect them," Imtiaz said with a laugh. "I am part of the police, and I know they can't protect me."

Fighting back

The police are trying to fight back with citizen councils and the beginnings of an elite force of 7,500 men who will be given good salaries and trained in investigative skills, profiling and weaponry training, said Khan, the provincial police chief. The first 2,000 men are being trained.  About a half-dozen civilian forces, fashioned along the lines of Iraq's Awakening Councils, have also been enticed into taking up arms against the militants in return for more development. Some of the councils, which call themselves Peace Committees, number more than 300 villagers.

"The people of this area have learned as children how to fire a rifle, how to handle a gun," Khan said. "Everyone has a gun, whether licensed or unlicensed. They don't need to be shown how to use them."

In Badaber, a dusty village barely six miles from the provincial capital of Peshawar, a civilian force patrols the streets at night. Abdul Hafeez, who runs a gas station in Badaber, said even government or army trucks must now get permission from villagers blocking the road to pass at night.
The job of the patrols, he said, is to keep out the militants, the military — and the police.  Hafeez said he had told the police a day in advance about rumors that militants were planning to blow up an electrical tower in Badaber. The next day, they did. The police did nothing.

"No, no, no — no one will go to the police," he said. "The police can't do anything. They can't stop these Taliban even when they know they are going to attack."


25972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 04, 2008, 05:59:55 PM
Citizen helps LEO during shooter situation
25973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues on: December 04, 2008, 03:26:28 PM

Please post WHY you are posting a URL.

Thank you,
25974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 04, 2008, 03:25:27 PM
Reposting SB Mig's post on the Books thread:

The Trouble With Thomas Jefferson
The eloquent Founder's original sin

Damon W. Root | January 2009 Print Edition

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 800 pages, $35

In 1775 the English essayist and lexicographer Samuel Johnson wrote a spirited political pamphlet titled Taxation No Tyranny. His subject was the loud and increasingly aggressive rhetoric coming from the American colonies, where criticism of British economic policy was giving way to calls for popular revolution. “How is it,” Johnson retorted, “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

It’s still a good question. Perhaps no one illustrates the paradox better than Thomas Jefferson. The celebrated author of the Declaration of Independence, which famously declares that “all men are created equal” and are born with the inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Jefferson was also a slaveholder, a man whose livelihood was rooted in the subjugation of hundreds of human beings, including members of his wife’s family and his own.

At the center of Jefferson’s tangled, frequently horrifying web of blood and bondage were two women: Elizabeth Hemings and her daughter Sarah, better known as Sally. Elizabeth, the daughter of an African slave and an English sea captain, was the slave mistress of a Virginia slave owner and broker named John Wayles. Sally Hemings was the youngest of their six children. Wayles also had children from his three marriages, including a daughter named Martha. Sally Hemings, in other words, was Martha Wayles’ half-sister. At her father’s death in 1773, Martha inherited his human property, including Elizabeth and Sally Hemings. In 1772 Martha married Thomas Jefferson. Thus the Hemingses came to Monticello.

In 1782 Martha died from complications after giving birth to her sixth child with Jefferson. Among those with him at her deathbed were Elizabeth and Sally Hemings, who then was 9 years old. Edmund Bacon, one of Jefferson’s overseers at Monticello, reported that as Martha lay dying she asked her husband not to remarry. “Holding her hand, Mr. Jefferson promised her solemnly that he would never marry again,” Bacon recalled. “And he never did.”

That doesn’t mean Jefferson became celibate. In 1789, while serving as U.S. envoy in Paris, he almost certainly began a four-decade-long relationship with his late wife’s half-sister. (In addition to the oral testimony of numerous Hemings family members, the evidence for their relationship includes DNA tests conducted in 1998 establishing that a Jefferson family male fathered Sally Hemings’ son Eston.) At this point Sally Hemings was 16.

It was an affair the historian Edmund S. Morgan has called a “monogamous spousal relationship.” In her extraordinary new book The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Rutgers University and a professor of law at New York Law School, uses a more specific term: concubine, which Virginia law defined at the time as a woman living with a man who was not her husband. If Sally Hemings were white, we might describe her relationship with Jefferson as a common-law marriage. But as Gordon-Reed reminds us, “Any black woman who lived with a white man could only have been his concubine. It was legally impossible to be anything else.”

This relationship apparently lasted until Jefferson’s death in 1826, by which time Hemings had given birth to seven of his children, four of whom survived into adulthood. In his will, Jefferson formally emancipated two of them, James Madison Hemings and Thomas Eston Hemings. The other two, William Beverly Hemings and Harriet Hemings, simply left Monticello on their own in the early 1820s to live—“pass”—as white. (All three males, it’s worth noting, were named after men Jefferson knew or admired, a common practice among Virginia’s planter elites.) Eight years after Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha Randolph quietly freed Sally Hemings, who was then 53 years old. Why didn’t Jefferson emancipate her too? “Formally freeing Hemings,” Gordon-Reed observes, “while also emancipating two people obviously young enough to be their children, would have told the story of his life over the past thirty-eight years quite well.”

Among the many achievements of Gordon-Reed’s compelling, if slightly repetitive, book is her vivid illumination of these previously hidden lives. She persuasively argues that Hemings exacted a promise from Jefferson that proved no less momentous than the one he had granted his dying wife. In essence, 16-year-old Hemings, who was pregnant with Jefferson’s child and working as his domestic “servant” in Paris, chose to return to America with him, rather than remain in France, where she could have formally received her freedom. (By law any slave that set foot on French soil was automatically free.) She did so because Jefferson promised to emancipate her children when they became adults—a promise he kept. In exchange, she lived as his concubine. “Like other enslaved people when the all too rare chance presented itself,” Gordon-Reed writes, “Hemings seized her moment and used the knowledge of her rights to make a decision based upon what she thought was best for her as a woman, family member, and a potential mother in her specific circumstances.”

Jefferson apparently cared for Sally Hemings and their children, and he clearly treated members of her family (some of who were also his deceased wife’s family) with much consideration. Elizabeth Hemings, for instance, became something of a revered matriarch. Her sons Robert and James (brothers to Sally Hemings and Martha Jefferson) received instruction in the skilled trades of barbering and cooking, respectively.

Both were permitted to work for private wages, and both enjoyed relative freedom of movement outside of Monticello—so long as they came running at their master’s command, of course. “Despite their status on the law books,” Gordon-Reed writes, “Jefferson treated them, to a degree, as if they were lower-class white males.” Eventually, Jefferson freed them both.

But let’s not draw too rosy a picture. As part of the marriage settlement for his sister Anna, Jefferson handed over the slave Nancy Hemings (another of Elizabeth Hemings’ offspring, though not by John Wayles) and her two children. When Anna’s husband decided to sell these three slaves, Nancy Hemings implored Jefferson to buy them back so they could remain together as a family. Jefferson bought Nancy, an expert weaver, and her young daughter, but refused to buy her son. The family was split apart. “No matter how ‘close’ the Hemingses were to Jefferson, no matter that he viewed some of them in a different light and did not subject them to certain hardships,” Gordon-Reed writes, “their family remained a commodity that could be sold or exchanged at his will.”

Which brings us back to Samuel Johnson and his quip about slaveholders yelping for liberty. Does the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves—probably including his own children—negate the wonderful things he wrote about inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence? To put it another way, why should anyone listen to what Master Jefferson (or other slaveholding Founders) had to say about liberty and equality?

It’s important to remember that the idea of inalienable rights didn’t start or stop in the year 1776. The historian Gordon S. Wood, in his superb 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, argues that “to focus, as we are apt to do, on what the Revolution did not accomplish—highlighting and lamenting its failure to abolish slavery and change fundamentally the lot of women—is to miss the great significance of what it did accomplish.” In Wood’s view, by destroying monarchical rule and replacing it with republicanism, the American revolutionaries “made possible the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements of the nineteenth century and in fact all our current egalitarian thinking.” They upended “their societies as well as their governments…only they did not know—they could scarcely have imagined—how much of their society they would change.”

As evidence, consider two very different figures whose lives intersected with slavery in the 19th century: the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the pro-slavery politician John C. Calhoun. An escaped slave and self-taught author and orator, Douglass understood better than most just how potent the Declaration’s promise of inalienable rights could be. “Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body?” Douglass would demand of his mostly white audiences. “There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.”

Calhoun, by contrast, believed the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” was “the most dangerous of all political error.” As he put it in an 1848 speech, “For a long time it lay dormant; but in the process of time it began to germinate, and produce its poisonous fruits.” This false notion of equality, Calhoun continued, “had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson…which caused him to take an utterly false view of the subordinate relation of the black to the white race in the South; and to hold, in consequence, that the former, though utterly unqualified to possess liberty, were as fully entitled to both liberty and equality as the latter.”

Think about what Calhoun is saying here. The idea that “all men are created equal” has slowly developed in the American consciousness, producing the “poisonous fruits” of the anti-slavery movement. Jefferson may or may not have intended such an outcome; he certainly did little actively to bring it about, though he did denounce slavery and its brutalizing impact on white society. But the libertarian ideas that inspired Jefferson, the ones coursing through the Declaration of Independence and later through the Constitution, nonetheless did bring it about. Douglass welcomed that result; Calhoun despised it.

That’s why Jefferson’s words matter. In spite of his despicable actions, he gave eloquent and resounding voice to the ideas that have been at the forefront of human liberty for hundreds of years. That members of the Hemings family may have heard such rhetoric while they lived in bondage further highlights the tragedy of their terrible situation. Thanks to Annette Gordon-Reed, these forgotten and silent individuals at least have the opportunity to register their own verdicts on this shameful period.

Damon W. Root is an associate editor of reason.
25975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From a friend in Iraq on: December 04, 2008, 12:17:04 PM
You know you are in Baghdad when the sign on the back of your hotel room door not only tells you what to do in event of a  fire, but also tells you what to do in event of:

·         Indirect fire attack

·         Small arms attack

·         VBIED attack

25976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 04, 2008, 11:54:35 AM
Laughing All the Way to the Senate

The Minnesota Senate recount is starting to resemble a "Saturday Night Live" skit that could have been part of Democratic candidate Al Franken's repertoire as a comedian.

This week, Ramsey County elections officials found an additional 171 ballots that hadn't been counted on election night. It turns out a broken voting machine had been replaced, but voters who used the first machine never had their ballots recounted. Mr. Franken picked up 37 votes from that error, but promptly lost 36 votes the next day after neighboring Hennepin County found that 133 votes in one precinct had been counted twice. Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert said she believes the error occurred when election judges at the precinct on election night mistakenly ran ballots with write-in candidates through a counting machine a second time. "There are human errors that are made on Election Day," she deadpanned.

Meanwhile, the recount in Minnesota's other 85 counties grinds on. With 93% of votes recounted, Mr. Franken's lawyers claimed yesterday they were now 22 votes ahead -- the first time their man has taken the lead from GOP incumbent Norm Coleman. The Coleman campaign promptly fired back with a press release puckishly claiming they were some 2,200 votes ahead. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's scoreboard right now has a Coleman lead of some 303 votes.

But the final outcome is likely to hinge on just how many of the 12,000 absentee ballots that were rejected for various reasons will ultimately be counted. In some cases, voters failed to follow instructions on the ballot. In some cases, they were submitted by people who had never registered to vote. The Franken campaign insists some 1,000 of the rejected ballots represent valid votes and vows to go to court to make sure the ballots are counted. The dispute may ultimately have to be resolved by the U.S. Senate itself, which has been known in the past to keep seats vacant while it conducts its own investigation.

"I have no doubt in my mind that Al Franken got more votes in this election than Norm Coleman," says Franken attorney Mark Elias. "I don't know what that margin's going to be. But the direction is all in one place, and we believe that's going to continue."

In other words, the Franken campaign is bound and determined to keep counting votes until their man is ahead -- and only then will it be time to stop counting lest the next batch of uncounted votes turn out to favor Mr. Coleman. It's an approach that certainly deserves a laugh, but hardly the way an important election should be resolved.

-- John Fund

The Rangel Time Bomb

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has two ethical time bombs on her hands. She'd be smart to defuse them quickly before they interfere with executing the Obama agenda.

One big headache for Ms. Pelosi is New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who faces multiple tax and regulatory scandals involving his many residential properties. Last week the New York Times also raised serious questions about Mr. Rangel's promotion of a tax loophole that benefited a major donor to a library to be named after him. Both the Washington Post and New York Times have editorialized for Mr. Rangel to step down, but Ms. Pelosi is apparently having none of it. "She told me I am her chairman of the Ways and Means Committee as long as I want to be," Mr. Rangel told reporters at a Harlem ribbon-cutting yesterday.

She may be sticking with Mr. Rangel because she has no stomach for the succession fight that would come. The next ranking Democrat on the important tax-writing committee is California Rep. Pete Stark, whose greatest hits include accusing GOP lawmakers of sending troops in Iraq to die "for the president's amusement." As an unnamed lobbyist told Congress Daily, the business community "would go nuclear" and Republicans would "have a field day" if the gaffe-prone left-winger Mr. Stark were to seek the chairmanship.

No less uncertain has been Mrs. Pelosi's trumpet on the Democrats' other nagging ethical liability, namely Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, who gained unwelcome notoriety when an FBI raid found $90,000 in cash in his home freezer. He was indicted last year on 16 criminal corruption charges and will soon face trial.

Two scandals might be unfortunate, but a third, if it crops up, could seriously undermine Ms. Pelosi's ambitious agenda. Recall how GOP House leadership passivity amid a succession of ethical lapses finally gobbled up the GOP's political capital in the eyes of voters. Lest the names be forgotten, the hall of ignominy includes Rep. Randy Duke's conviction on corruption charges, Rep. Bob Ney's criminal entanglement with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Mark Foley's salacious emails with House pages.

Lesson: These things build slowly but tend to overwhelm party leaders who don't act soon enough. Ms. Pelosi has been warned.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day I

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol" -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in remarks yesterday welcoming the new, air-conditioned Capitol Visitors Center.

Quote of the Day II

"Republicans were happy to make [Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff] a referendum on Obama; [GOP Senator Saxby] Chambliss consistently warned Georgians of giving the president-elect a 'blank check' in Washington. But can [Democratic challenger Jim] Martin's loss really be seen as a repudiation of Obama, given that he'd already lost the state by 5 percentage points? And what about the 'short coattail' theory -- that without Obama at the top of the ticket in 2010, lots of Democrats are going to be vulnerable? In preparation for this line of attack, House Democratic strategists are already making sure to point out the significant number of House candidates who overperformed Obama's showing in their districts this November, arguing that his effect on downballot races has consistently been overstated. The theory: House Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 without Obama on the ticket and can do just fine on their own in 2010, thank you very much" -- Hotline editor Amy Walter.

The Obama-Gore Consensus

Barack Obama's great virtue is his ability to behave like a cynical politician without getting a reputation as a cynical politician.

The latest example is his left-pleasing promise during the campaign for a windfall oil tax, now quietly removed from his transition web site. Explained an aide, the tax was all along meant to apply only if oil prices are over $80 a barrel. "They are below that now and expected to stay below that."

Mr. Obama here makes a choice in favor of good economic policy. But there's something else going on. He's a student of the late radical thinker Saul Alinsky, who argued that you do or say what's necessary in a democracy to gain power, while keeping your true aims to yourself. Mr. Obama's novel contribution has been to turn this exploitation on his supporters on the left (who admittedly are so wedded to their hero that, so far, they don't seem to mind).

His next big challenge is an upcoming conference updating the Kyoto targets. Mr. Obama has not backed off his overwrought climate rhetoric, but listen carefully to Al Gore. Now that Democrats are on the verge of power, he's backing off cap-and-trade and carbon tax proposals (i.e. visible energy price hikes for consumers) in favor of a new approach, massive government subsidies for "green technology."

Two fans, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaustell, co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute, write approvingly of what they call Mr. Gore's highly "significant shift." "He knows that cap-and-trade, and most any new regulation, would raise energy prices -- a political nonstarter during a recession."

Uh huh. Mr. Gore, when he's close to power, always drops the politically unpopular medicine his climate views would seem to necessitate. When he ran for president, he tried to lower gasoline prices by opening up the petroleum reserve. There was no recession at the time.

But the former veep is perfectly in sync with Mr. Obama. Energy taxes popular with the left but unpopular with voters will soon be off the table to preserve his second term hopes. But that doesn't mean an end to "climate policy, " which can still be used to foster a network of trade groups willing to kick back some of their taxpayer subsidies to maintain Democrats in power. This will do nothing for climate change (and indeed nothing proposed or entertained in Washington would make a difference to climate). But it will help cement Democratic ascendancy over Washington's iron triangle of interest groups, politicians and the bureaucracy.

Indeed, Mr. Gore, as an investor and promoter of several green energy funds himself, is a walking conflict of interest here -- one whose bogus credibility Mr. Obama will happily make use of. Alinsky would be proud.
25977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: December 04, 2008, 11:13:36 AM
New Products Bring Side Effect: Nanophobia

Published: December 3, 2008
IT sounds like a plot straight out of a science-fiction novel by Michael Crichton. Toiletry companies formulate new cutting-edge creams and lotions that contain tiny components designed to work more effectively. But those minuscule building blocks have an unexpected drawback: the ability to penetrate the skin, swarm through the body and overwhelm organs like the liver.

Humans have long lived in dread of such nightmare scenarios in which swarms of creatures attack. Alfred Hitchcock envisioned menacing flocks in “The Birds.” In the 1990 film “Arachnophobia” a killer spider arrives in the United States, where it attacks and multiplies.

And now comes nanophobia, the fear that tiny components engineered on the nanoscale — that is, 100 nanometers or less — could run amok inside the body. A human hair, for example, is 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers in diameter. A nanoparticle of titanium dioxide in a sunscreen could be as small as 15 nanometers. (One nanometer equals a billionth of a meter.)

“The smaller a particle, the further it can travel through tissue, along airways or in blood vessels,” said Dr. Adnan Nasir, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Especially if the nanoparticles are indestructible and accumulate and are not metabolized, if you accumulate them in the organs, the organs could fail.”

Indeed, some doctors, scientists and consumer advocates are concerned that many industries are adopting nanotechnology ahead of studies that would establish whether regular ingestion, inhalation or dermal penetration of these particles constitute a health or environmental hazard. Personal care products are simply the lowest hanging fruit.

But people are already exposed to nanoparticles. Stoves and toaster ovens emit ultrafine particles of 2 to 30 nanometers, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the researchers reported last month that long-term contact with such appliances could constitute a large exposure to the smallest of nanoparticles.

Several products already use nano-engineered materials. There are “nano pants,” stain-resistant chinos and jeans whose fabric contain nano-sized whiskers that repel oil and dirt, and nanocycles made from carbon nanotubes that are stronger and lighter than standard steel bicycles. And in lotions and creams, the use of nanocomponents may create a more cosmetically elegant effect — like uniformity or spreadability.

Some ingredients may behave differently as nanoparticles than they do in larger forms. Nano-sized silver, for example, can act as an antibacterial agent on the skin. Larger particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide result in white pasty sunscreens; but as nanoparticles, they appear more transparent.

When it comes to beauty products, however, some consumer advocates are concerned that dynamic nanoparticles could pose risks to the skin or, if they penetrate the skin, to other parts of the body. Mineral sunscreens have attracted the most attention.

“Substances that are perfectly benign could be toxic at the nano scale,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the company behind Consumer Reports. “Because they are so small, they could go places in the body that could not be done before.”

This month, the magazine published a study it had commissioned that found mineral nanoparticles in five sunscreens, even though four of the companies had denied using them. In October, Dr. Hansen sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, asking the agency to require cosmetics and sunscreen manufacturers to run safety tests on nano scale ingredients. In the letter, he cited a few studies published in scientific journals that reported that exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide caused damage to the organs of laboratory animals and human cell cultures.

But cosmetics industry representatives said there was no evidence that personal care products that contain nano-size components constitute a health hazard. Furthermore, no rigorous clinical trials have been published showing that cosmetics with nanocomponents caused health problems. A review of the potential risks of nanomaterials, carried out for the European Center for Toxicology in 2006, concluded that sunscreens with metal nanoparticles were unlikely to penetrate healthy skin, but it did raise the question of whether safety studies should examine if such materials may penetrate damaged skin.

“It’s very difficult to get anything through the skin,” said John Bailey, the executive vice president for science of the Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade group in Washington. “The skin is a very effective barrier.”

Indeed, some nanotechnology researchers said it was illogical to assume that a nano-size component inherently carries greater risk than a larger component. Furthermore, some say cosmetics may contain molecules like a silicone fluid called cyclopentasiloxane that are even smaller than nanomaterials.

New Products Bring Side Effect: Nanophobia
(Page 2 of 2)

“I think it’s a double standard because nanoparticles are less likely to go through the skin than solutions where you are using single molecules,” said Robert S. Langer, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He is developing nanoparticles for the targeted delivery of cancer medications, and is a founder of Living Proof, a cosmetics company that makes hair products. “The molecules in a cream are certainly going to be smaller than a nanoparticle.”

The Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list the format of ingredients on labels. The agency does require cosmetics manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe for use; in 2006, the agency created its own task force to investigate the safety of engineered nanomaterials.

Ken Marenus, the senior vice president of regulatory affairs worldwide at the Estée Lauder companies, said nanomaterials had to undergo the same kind of assessment for exposure, risk and dosage levels as any other cosmetic component. “The same toxicological standards for every chemical will apply to nano,” he said.

Dr. Bailey of the Personal Care Products Council estimated that several thousand sunscreens and cosmetics currently use some kind of nanoscale component.

Cor soap, for example, uses 50-nanometer particles of silver combined with silica that are smaller than the size of a skin pore. The material is designed to enter the pores and kill bacteria.

“The silver suffocates the bacteria and then you rinse it off with water,” said Jennifer McKinley, the chief executive of Cor. Although a study has shown that nanosilver can permeate broken skin, Ms. McKinley said the soap was safe because it contains only a limited amount of nanosilver and the particles do not remain on the skin.

Indeed, using nanoderivatives of precious metals is becoming a trend. Last year, Chantecaille introduced Nano Gold Energizing Cream, a $420 face cream that contains 5-nanometer particles of 24-carat gold encapsulated in silk fibers. Sylvie Chantecaille, the chief executive of the company, said the capsules delivered the gold particles, which work as an antioxidant, into the surface layers of the skin. “It’s a very effective way to transport beneficial ingredients,” she said.

But many beauty companies are shying away from discussing minuscule particles in their cosmetics. And that kind of avoidance may itself stoke nanophobia. For example, when La Prairie introduced its Cellular Cream Platinum Rare earlier this year, the company sent out press materials promoting “nano-sized Hesperidin Smart Crystals to protect DNA” in the formula. But, in a phone interview, Sven Gohla, the company’s vice president for research and development, distanced the brand from nanotechnology. Just because the particles of hesperidin, a flavonoid, in the formula are small does not mean they are manufactured nanotechnology, he said.

Last month, a consumer group in London called Which? published a survey it had conducted of 67 cosmetics companies on the prevalence and safety testing of nanomaterials in personal care products. Only 17 companies responded, of which eight acknowledged using nanomaterials.

“When nanotechnology was hot, everybody wanted to talk about ‘nano this, nano that.’ Look at the iPod nano,” said Dr. Hansen of Consumers Union. “But now that the concerns have come out, people are not so sure the word nano is a good thing to be touted.”
25978  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: December 04, 2008, 11:07:39 AM
 cheesy cheesy cheesy
25979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: December 04, 2008, 11:05:49 AM

Storm in a C-cup - 130,000 boobs lost at sea
December 2, 2008 - 9:34AM

More than 130,000 inflatable breasts have been lost at sea en route to Australia.  Men's magazine Ralph was planning to include the boobs as a free gift with its January issue.

The cargo is worth about $200,000, which is another blow for publisher ACP's parent company PBL, which is already in $4.3 billion of debt.  A spokeswoman for Ralph said the container left docks in Beijing two weeks ago but turned up empty in Sydney this week.  The magazine has put out an alert to shipping authorities to see if they have the container, but if they don't turn up in the next  48 hours it will be too late for the next issue, she said.  Ralph editor Santi Pintado urged anyone who has any information to contact the magazine.

``Unless Somali pirates have stolen them its difficult to explain where they are,'' Pintado said.
``If anyone finds any washed up on a beach, please let us know.''
25980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Debt on: December 04, 2008, 11:02:06 AM

"But with respect to future debt; would it not be wise and just for that nation to declare in the constitution they are forming that neither the legislature, nor the nation itself can validly contract more debt, than they may pay within their own age, or within the term of 19 years."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, 6 September 1789
25981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 03, 2008, 12:11:32 PM
My read of the piece is that it is quite clear in its suggestion-- that we get our minds right.  Unlike the general tenor of this forum  wink cheesy  our leadership fears to name the enemy.  The enemy is not an immoral technique.  The enemy is the fascistic streak of Islam-- its remaining Satanic Verses if you will  wink  In short, it is a simple and profoundly important "suggestion" the piece makes.  Know that there is a mass world-wide movement that wars on us.  The strategy?  "We win.  They lose" (President Reagan)
25982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: December 03, 2008, 12:04:56 PM
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was set to arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday, and then reportedly will make her way to Islamabad, in an attempt to calm tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors following the attacks in Mumbai. It appears that Rice will be carrying a message of restraint for the Indians. Ahead of her trip, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino made a point of saying that “the United States doesn’t believe Pakistan’s government was involved in the attacks, and the Bush administration trusts Pakistan to investigate the issue … We have no reason not to [trust Pakistan] right now.” In other words: Hold your horses, India — Washington is in no mood for a crisis to break out on the Indo-Pakistani border right now.

Washington’s desire for restraint is understandable. The United States is shifting its military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. For counterterrorism efforts to succeed in that theater, the United States needs to ensure, at the very least, that the Pakistani state is intact. But with a weak and fractured government, a military and intelligence establishment that has lost control, a spreading jihadist insurgency and an economy on the brink of bankruptcy, Pakistan is not in good shape. A military confrontation on its eastern border easily could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in Islamabad, thereby frustrating U.S. military operations in the region and creating an even more fertile environment for jihadist activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and the wider world.

While the Indians will hear out the Americans and discuss various avenues of cooperation, including U.S. assistance in training and equipping Indian security forces, New Delhi is highly unlikely to accede to Washington’s request for calm and restraint. India just experienced its own 9/11. After an attack of such magnitude, the government has no choice but to respond, and that response inevitably will be felt in Pakistan. This is not only politically driven: Though the Indian government needs to demonstrate that it is taking action against this threat, it also has a core national security interest in ensuring that an attack like that in Mumbai cannot be repeated.

The Indians are not about to subordinate their freedom to maneuver to the Americans. Doing so would violate a long-standing policy of non-alignment practiced in New Delhi. Given its geography — buffered by the Indian Ocean to the south, jungles to the east, the Himalayas to the north and desert to the west — India is both insulated and strategically placed between the oil-rich Islamic world and the Far East. This has enabled New Delhi to pursue a largely independent foreign policy and play a balancing role between great powers, such as Russia and the United States. New Delhi will resist getting locked into any strategic alignment. (This is precisely why getting the civilian nuclear deal with the United States passed in New Delhi was such a laborious and noisy affair, as politicians feared the deal would compromise India’s independence in foreign relations.)

The U.S. need for restraint and the Indian need for action, therefore, inevitably will clash. But that will not necessarily stop the Indians from taking steps against Pakistan.

There have been several public indications already that New Delhi is making a concerted effort to build a case against the Pakistanis without appearing hasty or rash.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told NDTV on Tuesday that while he would not comment on military action, “every sovereign country has its right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action as and when it feels necessary.” Later in the day, Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor gave a press conference in which he said that a group of 10 militants involved in the Mumbai attacks came from Karachi, and that the one suspect captured alive admitted to being a Pakistani from Punjab. Stratfor also is getting indications that the Indian Intelligence Bureau is disseminating more detailed information to Washington — making a special point of reaching out to President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers — to emphasize the Pakistan link in these attacks. So far, Obama has remained relatively ambiguous on the matter. However, on Monday, when asked whether India has the right to “take out” high-value targets inside Pakistan with or without Islamabad’s permission — similar to the precedent the United States has set by launching its own operations along the Pakistani-Afghan border — Obama said that as a sovereign state, India has the right to protect itself.

In all likelihood, a contingency plan has already been decided and set into motion by the upper echelons of the Indian government. Such a plan would take several days at least to implement, giving the Indians some time to try and exhaust their diplomatic options. This might explain why the Indians are being careful with their statements — reiterating the Pakistan link but leaving open a window for diplomatic reconciliation if (and only if) Pakistan cracks down on those elements of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency that purportedly were involved in the attacks. The Pakistanis are likely sensing Indian military preparations and are putting out feelers to exculpate the Pakistani state. One such feeler made its way to the Asia Times Online: A writer believed to have close links to the ISI described how a rogue node of the ISI in Karachi approved the Mumbai operation, after the initial ISI plot was “hijacked” by Kashmiri Islamist militants who had linked up with al Qaeda. The Pakistanis know that India is prepared to raise these claims and are attempting to put distance between the state and the ISI rogues. The best that Islamabad can hope for is that the United States — acting on its own interests in the region — will be able to restrain India from taking military action against Pakistan.

This sets up an interesting dynamic in which the intent of each player will not necessarily match up with the results of its actions. Washington’s intent right now is to restrain India, but India will not allow itself to be held back by the United States. The Pakistanis’ intent may be to crack down on rogue ISI elements and stave off a military confrontation with the Indians, but it is doubtful that Islamabad even has the capability to do so — and it cannot depend fully on the United States to constrain New Delhi. The Indians’ intent is to coerce the Pakistanis into suppressing militants and regaining control over ISI rogues, but political and social pressures are building within India to respond aggressively. The diplomatic maneuvers will continue in coming days, but objective forces are slowly pushing New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington toward a crisis.
25983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine on: December 03, 2008, 10:17:42 AM
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection." --Thomas Paine
25984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama Bonds on: December 03, 2008, 10:16:45 AM
Should this happen, it will bode ominously for the role of the dollar in the world economy.

Japan economists call for 'Obama bonds'
By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO - Japanese economists, increasingly concerned that the United States might seek to pay its enormous and growing debt obligations in a weakened US dollar, are looking to the possibility of US Treasuries being issued in yen.

The US government needs to borrow at least US$1 trillion in the coming year, excluding the US Treasury's $700 billion plan to bail out the financial and other industries, said Kazuo Mizuno, chief economist in Tokyo at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Co, a unit of Japan's largest publicly traded lender by assets. That amount is likely to grow as the US government continues to rescue failed parts of the economy and has to raise more debt - that is, issue government bonds, or Treasuries - to fund such rescues.

Since 2004, when the amount of the government bond issuance reached an annual average of $400 billion, 94% of new buyers of US government bonds have been foreigners, Mizuno told Asia Times Online.

One measure of the increased concern at the ability of the United States to finance its enormous deficits in the future is the rising cost of credit default swaps bought as protection of Treasury debt. These traded near a record high on Tuesday, with benchmark 10-year contracts on Treasuries increased to 42 basis points, or 0.42 percentage points, from around 20 in early September. The contracts have also risen from below two basis points at the start of the credit crisis in July 2007.

While it remains unlikely that the US government will default on its debt, a weaker dollar would ease the burden of payment on existing debt.

In the past few months, the US dollar has strengthened against other major currencies, with the notable exception of the yen, even as the country has been at the epicenter of the deepening financial crisis. That dollar strength is not expected to last.

"There is no wonder the dollar will weaken," said Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan's former top currency official and now a professor at Waseda University. "The dollar now looks strong for a technical reason. The money the US financial firms had invested in the world is being repatriated into the homeland, causing dollar-buying. But once this conversion into the dollars is done, the currency will head south," Sakakibara said at a forum in Tokyo on Sunday.

Faced with the unprecedented growth of the US budget deficit and the prospect of an increasingly weaker dollar compared with the yen reducing the value of Treasury debt held by Japan, economists in Tokyo are calling for the administration of president-elect Barack Obama to issue US Treasuries denominated in yen and other currencies. The issuance of foreign currency-denominated US Treasures would reduce the perceived risk of holding the debt.

The idea of issuing foreign currency-denominated US Treasures is not new. The Jimmy Carter administration, buffeted by the two oil crises of the 1970s, sold "Carter bonds", denominated in German marks and Swiss francs, in 1978 to attract foreign investors into Treasuries.

"The US will be forced to issue foreign currency-denominated US Treasures in its hour of need," said Mizuno. "The US cannot finance its deficit by itself. The US financial system cannot survive without foreign investors. We will see 'Obama Bonds' in the future."

With the US owing increasing amounts to foreign nations, the confidence in US Treasuries continues to be shaken, said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan Securities Japan Co in Tokyo, said. "This will push up long-term yields, and the dollar will be sold," said Kanno, speaking at the forum in Tokyo on Sunday.

So far, the Japanese yen has been the biggest winner out of the current financial turmoil as investors increasingly unwind the so-called yen carry trade, in which yen borrowed at low interest is changed into other currencies and invested for higher yields than the interest charged on the yen loan.

The yen has advanced 15% versus the dollar this year, 33% against the euro and 53% against the pound sterling. The yen may rise to 85 per dollar this year, predicted Masaki Fukui, senior market economist in Tokyo at Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd, a unit of Japan's second-largest financial group by market value. The Japanese currency at present is trading at about 96.28 to the US dollar.

"Japan’s financial authorities may intervene in the foreign exchange markets only when the yen breaks 90 per dollar," Sakakibara said.

As the yen strengthens, the effective value of debt held in dollars will decline, a fate that yen-denominated Treasuries would escape.

"Yen-denominated US Treasuries would reduce currency risks for Japanese and Chinese buyers of US Treasuries," said Fukui. "If concerns over US Treasuries continue to grow, no one will want to buy them. Yen-denominated US Treasuries would make it easy for foreign investors to buy them."

Looking ahead to 2009, foreign buyers such as Japan, China and other emerging market central banks are likely to reduce their holdings of US Treasuries rather than increase them, as their own countries face massive funding needs to buoy their economies at home and as America will continue to face financial instability and deteriorating economic fundamentals.

Japan holds the world's second-largest foreign reserves, totaling about $1 trillion, following China, which has about $2 trillion in forex reserves, including some $600 billion worth of US Treasuries. Japan plans to provide up to $100 billion to the International Monetary Fund, which would reduce the nation’s holding of short-term US Treasury bills.

China on November 9 announced its sweeping economic stimulus package valued at about 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion), to be spent over the next two years. Market players are speculating China, to secure financial resources, would reduce its holding of US Treasury securities rather than increase them.

Kosuke Takahashi is a freelance correspondent based in Tokyo. He can be contacted at

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 
25985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: December 03, 2008, 06:59:43 AM
"To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted."

--Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures, December, 1791
25986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thomas Friedman on: December 03, 2008, 06:42:36 AM
Calling All Pakistanis 
Published: December 2, 2008

On Feb. 6, 2006, three Pakistanis died in Peshawar and Lahore during violent street protests against Danish cartoons that had satirized the Prophet Muhammad. More such mass protests followed weeks later. When Pakistanis and other Muslims are willing to take to the streets, even suffer death, to protest an insulting cartoon published in Denmark, is it fair to ask: Who in the Muslim world, who in Pakistan, is ready to take to the streets to protest the mass murders of real people, not cartoon characters, right next door in Mumbai?

After all, if 10 young Indians from a splinter wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party traveled by boat to Pakistan, shot up two hotels in Karachi and the central train station, killed at least 173 people, and then, for good measure, murdered the imam and his wife at a Saudi-financed mosque while they were cradling their 2-year-old son — purely because they were Sunni Muslims — where would we be today? The entire Muslim world would be aflame and in the streets.

So what can we expect from Pakistan and the wider Muslim world after Mumbai? India says its interrogation of the surviving terrorist indicates that all 10 men come from the Pakistani port of Karachi, and at least one, if not all 10, were Pakistani nationals.

First of all, it seems to me that the Pakistani government, which is extremely weak to begin with, has been taking this mass murder very seriously, and, for now, no official connection between the terrorists and elements of the Pakistani security services has been uncovered.

At the same time, any reading of the Pakistani English-language press reveals Pakistani voices expressing real anguish and horror over this incident. Take for instance the Inter Press Service news agency article of Nov. 29 from Karachi: “ ‘I feel a great fear that [the Mumbai violence] will adversely affect Pakistan and India relations,’ the prominent Karachi-based feminist poet and writer Attiya Dawood told I.P.S. ‘I can’t say whether Pakistan is involved or not, but whoever is involved, it is not the ordinary people of Pakistan, like myself, or my daughters. We are with our Indian brothers and sisters in their pain and sorrow.’ ”

But while the Pakistani government’s sober response is important, and the sincere expressions of outrage by individual Pakistanis are critical, I am still hoping for more. I am still hoping — just once — for that mass demonstration of “ordinary people” against the Mumbai bombers, not for my sake, not for India’s sake, but for Pakistan’s sake.

Why? Because it takes a village. The best defense against this kind of murderous violence is to limit the pool of recruits, and the only way to do that is for the home society to isolate, condemn and denounce publicly and repeatedly the murderers — and not amplify, ignore, glorify, justify or “explain” their activities.

Sure, better intelligence is important. And, yes, better SWAT teams are critical to defeating the perpetrators quickly before they can do much damage. But at the end of the day, terrorists often are just acting on what they sense the majority really wants but doesn’t dare do or say. That is why the most powerful deterrent to their behavior is when the community as a whole says: “No more. What you have done in murdering defenseless men, women and children has brought shame on us and on you.”

Why should Pakistanis do that? Because you can’t have a healthy society that tolerates in any way its own sons going into a modern city, anywhere, and just murdering everyone in sight — including some 40 other Muslims — in a suicide-murder operation, without even bothering to leave a note. Because the act was their note, and destroying just to destroy was their goal. If you do that with enemies abroad, you will do that with enemies at home and destroy your own society in the process.

“I often make the comparison to Catholics during the pedophile priest scandal,” a Muslim woman friend wrote me. “Those Catholics that left the church or spoke out against the church were not trying to prove to anyone that they are anti-pedophile. Nor were they apologizing for Catholics, or trying to make the point that this is not Catholicism to the non-Catholic world. They spoke out because they wanted to influence the church. They wanted to fix a terrible problem” in their own religious community.

We know from the Danish cartoons affair that Pakistanis and other Muslims know how to mobilize quickly to express their heartfelt feelings, not just as individuals, but as a powerful collective. That is what is needed here.

Because, I repeat, this kind of murderous violence only stops when the village — all the good people in Pakistan, including the community elders and spiritual leaders who want a decent future for their country — declares, as a collective, that those who carry out such murders are shameful unbelievers who will not dance with virgins in heaven but burn in hell. And they do it with the same vehemence with which they denounce Danish cartoons.
25987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jews in India on: December 03, 2008, 06:27:11 AM
I post this here even though it is not on point to the subject of the thread because of the thread's discussion of the Chabad.

Jews of Mumbai, a Tiny and Eclectic Group, Suddenly Reconsider Their Serene Existence
Published: December 2, 2008

MUMBAI, India — The peeling turquoise facade of the colonial-era Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the heart of the city’s financial district has long been a tourist attraction, a reminder of the centuries of Jewish influence that have helped shape Mumbai and of the acceptance Jews have enjoyed here.

But after the terrorist attacks last week, Mumbai’s Jews are dismayed to find another building suddenly vying with the 124-year-old synagogue as a symbol of their presence: the charred remains of Nariman House, where gunmen killed Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, and four other Jews.

Although none of the Jews killed in the terrorists’ assault on Nariman House, the community center run by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, were Indian citizens, the attacks have badly shaken Jews in India. Mumbai has about 4,000 Jewish residents, accounting for a vast majority of India’s Jewish population.

“This is the first time when a Jew has been targeted in India because he is a Jew,” said Jonathon Solomon, a Mumbai lawyer and president of the Indian Jewish Federation. “The tradition of the last thousand years has been breached.”

The origins of India’s Jews remain uncertain, but according to some accounts they may have come as emissaries from the court of King Solomon. They established communities and lived peacefully with Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and, later, Muslims. The absence of anti-Semitism throughout this history has been a source of pride in India.

“This is one of the few countries where Jews never faced discrimination and persecution,” said Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, a leader of the Jewish community in New Delhi.

Jews played a prominent role in several coastal cities, but nowhere more so than in Mumbai. Jewish merchants from Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries arrived in the late 18th century in what was then British Bombay and quickly established themselves as leading businessmen, opening textile mills and international trading companies.

Only about 200 of these so-called Baghdadi Jews remain in Mumbai, with the rest having immigrated to Israel, Britain and the United States. But their legacy endures: synagogues, libraries and schools, many of which serve Jews and non-Jews. They also financed the construction of several city landmarks, including the Flora Fountain and the Sassoon docks.

Today, most of Mumbai’s Jews have roots in a group known as the Bene Israel community, which claims to be descended from seven Jewish families who were shipwrecked on India’s shore while fleeing persecution in the Galilee during the second century B.C. Over the centuries, they adopted Indian language, dress and cuisine. Since India became independent, these Jews have often played influential roles in Indian society, including in government and Bollywood.

“We always felt we were Indians first and Jews second,” said Mr. Malekar, a Bene Israel Jew.

That sensibility has been shattered by the siege of Nariman House. “This attack has really shaken us up,” said a Jewish educator in Mumbai who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety. “If with such ease they could finish off the whole Chabad House — the property and the people — now we have to have a fresh look at our own security.”

Many Jewish institutions have remained closed this week as a security precaution. Jewish leaders said they might have to begin restricting access to synagogues and community centers. “Jewish institutions in India are soft targets,” Mr. Solomon said. “After being used to living fearless for so long we are going through a phase where we are debating with ourselves about being careful and whether we need to change our mode of existence.”

Heightening anxieties is the location of many of Mumbai’s synagogues, which are now in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. Historically, relations between the two religious groups in Mumbai have been good.

“They live with us as brothers and in brotherhood we also live with them,” said Solomon Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts, which manages several Jewish institutions, including a high school that was founded as a Jewish school but now enrolls mostly Muslims.

After the terrorist assaults, some Mumbai Jews said they were increasingly apprehensive about their Muslim neighbors.

Page 2 of 2)

Mr. Solomon said the attack convinced him of the need for India’s Jews to seek official recognition as a minority group. Such status confers privileges, including reserved places for admission to universities and for government jobs. More important, Mr. Solomon said, it would require the Indian government to protect the Jewish community from persecution. In the past, the Indian government has argued that there are too few Jews in the country to grant minority status.

Many Mumbai Jews said they had limited interaction with Rabbi Holtzberg and Chabad House, whose activities were focused on Orthodox Jews visiting from abroad and encouraging greater religious observance among young Israeli backpackers. Few Jews live in the Colaba neighborhood where Nariman House is, having moved to more affluent areas in northern and western parts of the city.

In addition, the Lubavitchers’ ultra-Orthodox practices are much stricter than the observance of most Mumbai Jews.

But Rabbi Holtzberg did preside over Sabbath services every Friday at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. He also conducted religious study classes and helped supply the city’s more religious Jews with kosher meat.

Some Jews said the attacks were likely to foster closer ties within the city’s Jewish population, which in the past had been deeply divided between the Baghdadi community and the Bene Israel group, although those tensions were easing as the city’s Jewish population dwindled. Representatives from both Indian Jewish communities, as well as Chabad, mourned the Holtzbergs and the other Jewish victims from Nariman House at a memorial service on Monday.

Mr. Solomon, who described himself as a secular Jew, said he would be sure to visit the Chabad House when it reopens. A new rabbi, Dov Goldberg, has already been selected.

“Next time it opens, I will make it a point of going to show my solidarity with them,” Mr. Solomon said. “I suppose the same will go for many members of our community.”
25988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 03, 2008, 06:10:27 AM
TBILISI, Georgia -- As ex-Eastern bloc countries from Hungary to Ukraine stumble in the face of the global financial crisis, Georgia, which also suffered a war, has so far largely escaped. The reason: the war.

More than half a billion dollars in mainly U.S. reconstruction aid has already been allocated at high speed since the war between Russia and Georgia in August, filling holes in Georgia's budget and replacing financing for commercial and infrastructure projects that might otherwise have dried up.

A building in Gori, Georgia, smolders after being bombed by Russian jets in August. Reconstruction aid, mainly from the U.S., has replaced commercial financing that might have dried up amid the global financial crisis.

"If there ever was a good time to have a war then this was it," said Roy Southworth, shortly before retiring as country manager for the World Bank in Tbilisi last week.

Georgia was particularly fortunate, he said, with the timing of an Oct. 23 international donor's conference in Brussels, where countries pledged a total of $4.5 billion in aid that should help fill the gap left by an expected drop in foreign investment after the war. "The worst of the financial crisis was still a few days off -- a week or two later and who knows if governments would have been so willing to pledge money," he said.

Most of Georgia's rapid recent economic growth has come from foreign direct investment, which made up close to 20% of gross domestic product in 2007, according to government figures. But the war has put that trend at risk.

Kazakhstan said in September that it had ditched plans to build a $1 billion oil refinery in Batumi, and in October that it might consider selling its gas-distribution business in Georgia. Kazakhstan is a major investor in Georgia but must carefully balance its interests here with keeping its bigger trading partner, Russia, happy.

With growth set to slow sharply to 3.5% this year from 12.4% in 2007, according to World Bank forecasts, unemployment is expected to rise, a prospect that has the government worried.

"Not a single Georgian would have wanted this money as a consequence of war," said Eka Sharashidze, Minister for Economic Development, at a signing ceremony Monday for $10.7 million in U.S. and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development grants and loans to overhaul the water-supply system in the city of Borjomi. "But this support will help Georgia get back on its feet."

 Georgia's government can take credit for some of the economic stability during and after the war, said Mr. Southworth. Unlike some other East European economies, Georgia hadn't run up massive deficits prior to the financial crisis that made its currency vulnerable. The government recently said it will cut the nation's flat income-tax rate by five percentage points to 20% in January in an effort to stimulate the economy.

About $570 million of the $1 billion U.S. portion of the international aid has already been allocated, with $250 million to fill a hole in the government's budget, helping to pay politically sensitive state pensions and salaries.

Georgia also has fans in the foreign-investment community willing to wait and see. This year, the country leapt to the 15th-best place to do business in the world in the World Bank's annual rankings. As recently as 2005, Georgia ranked 112th.

Foreign investors "that already invested time or money are continuing, even if they are delayed a few months," said David Lee, general director of MagtiCom Ltd, Georgia's leading mobile-telecommunications company, adding that 70% of all companies in Georgia are his clients. "But the big question is -- will new investors come?"

Mr. Southworth points to a slew of five-star hotels under construction in downtown Tbilisi as a bellwether for how bad the impact gets. Several seem likely to finish almost according to prewar schedules, despite the war. One, to be operated by Hyatt International LLC, is set to receive about $30 million in cheap finance from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, part of a $176 million loan package for seven projects in late October.

"The OPIC finance is goodwill and assistance because private-equity funds won't invest in Georgia now, they won't take on the country risk or the high political risk," said Kakha Sharabidze, the Tbilisi-based CEO of Loyal Estate, the developer of the project.

25989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 03, 2008, 06:07:52 AM
WASHINGTON -- James Jones, President-elect Barack Obama's new national security adviser, said a U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan will work only if other changes take hold there, including a strengthening of the judiciary and national police force.

Retired Marine Gen. James Jones, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for national-security adviser, says that a troop surge in Afghanistan will work only if an effort is also made to bolster the government.

In an interview Tuesday, the retired Marine Corps general said Mr. Obama's campaign pledge to move as many as 10,000 U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan must mesh with a concentrated international effort to bolster government and eradicate the vast heroin trade.

"You can always put more troops into Afghanistan," he said. "But if that's all you do, you will just be prolonging the problem."

Gen. Jones's prescription for what ails Afghanistan offers a glimpse at the role he will likely play as Mr. Obama's right-hand man on national security and the top foreign-policy referee within the White House.

In announcing Gen. Jones this week as his pick to head the National Security Council, Mr. Obama emphasized the general's military and diplomatic experience. "He has commanded a platoon in battle, served as supreme allied commander in a time of war, and worked on behalf of peace in the Middle East," Mr. Obama said Monday.

WSJ's Neil King talked with James Jones, Obama's new national security adviser. Read some excerpts from their interview.
Gen. Jones will have to mediate between the likes of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was nominated as secretary of state. The Obama White House also will teem with such strong personalities as Rep. Rahm Emanuel, named as chief of staff, and Larry Summers, the incoming head of the National Economic Council.

For his part, Gen. Jones tends toward the sober and methodical. He said he has "every reason to believe" the team can work together. "We have a serious boatload of problems facing us and the only way out of it is for us all to pull on the same oar," he said. Gen. Jones's friends say that despite 40 years in the Marines Corps, his conversations are profanity-free. The general has a penchant for words like "holistic" and "embryonic."

Mr. Obama has often mentioned the need to turn more U.S. military attention toward Afghanistan, and describes South Asia as the biggest menace to U.S. security.

The Jones pick met with approval from European diplomats, many of whom know the general from his years in Belgium as the military head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But Gen. Jones put much of the blame for Afghanistan's deepening woes on NATO's military effort that he said "has let too many things slip through the cracks."

An internationalist at heart, Gen. Jones said the incoming administration is eager to enlist the support of Europe and the rest of the world to grapple with the challenge of Iran and its nuclear program. He said it was too early to talk specifics on Iran policy.

Gen. Jones brings an unusual resume to the White House post. He spoke English and French as a child in Paris, where his father was an International Harvester executive. He played basketball at Georgetown University, where he graduated from the School of Foreign Service before joining the Marine Corps. He commanded a platoon for two years in Vietnam. In the early 1980s, he served as a Marine liaison to the Senate. His boss was the future Sen. John McCain.

Obama's Advisers
View Interactive

See some of the people expected to join the new administration.
He also has nurtured close ties to the Democrats, serving as a senior military assistant in the Clinton Pentagon, and then as Marine commandant. Under President Bush, he became the military head of NATO in 2003 and took charge of all U.S. forces in Europe.

Gen. Jones spent most of the last two years running an energy task force at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a job that he said reinforced his conviction that the U.S. "urgently needs a comprehensive energy strategy." He intends to make that quest a key part of his new job, and to enlarge the National Security Council to include a top energy adviser.

Gen. Jones also hit on a key foreign-policy theme of the incoming administration: that the U.S. must be judicious in its use of hard power. "There is power and then there is influence," he said. "If we say what we mean and do what we say, that will help forgo the classic use of power in the military sense."

The international fascination with this year's presidential election, Gen. Jones said, reinforced his view that U.S. influence isn't waning as rapidly as some critics say. "I am not ready to concede yet that American era is behind us," he said.
25990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Laid off migrant workers returning to countryside on: December 03, 2008, 05:43:43 AM
SHUANGFU VILLAGE, China -- Fan Junchao has spent most of the past five years living hundreds of miles from his small family farm here. Encouraged by the local government, he leased out his meager plot and worked on construction crews in big cities, making several times what he could have earned on crops.

Laid off migrant workers across China are returning home to villages like Shuangfu, above.

Now his construction project has been halted, and Mr. Fan has returned home. "Right now, I don't have a plan," he says. "I'm just taking it one step at a time."

Mr. Fan is among hundreds of thousands of China's 130 million migrant workers -- known as the "floating population" -- being cast out of urban jobs in factories and at construction sites.

China's roaring industrial economy has been abruptly quieted by the effects of the global financial crisis. Rural provinces that supplied much of China's factory manpower are watching the beginnings of a wave of reverse migration that has the potential to shake the stability of the world's most populous nation.

Fast-rising unemployment has led to an unusual series of strikes and protests. Normally cautious government officials have offered quick concessions and talk openly of their worries about social unrest. Laid-off factory workers in Dongguan overturned patrol cars and clashed with police last Tuesday, and hundreds of taxis parked in front of a government office in nearby Chaozhou over the weekend, one of a series of driver protests.

On Wednesday, workers let go from a liquor factory in northern China mounted a protest in Beijing, at the parent company's headquarters. In the latest sign of economic stress, China's currency fell Monday by its single largest margin on record against the dollar, on expectations the central bank might devalue it to prop up sagging growth.

As the government tries to calm tensions in the cities, it also fears that newly unemployed migrants returning home could upend the already-strained social system in the countryside.

At a train station 30 miles from Mr. Fan's village, officials are keeping 24-hour tabs on arrivals to monitor how many of the surrounding area's two million migrants will return from industrial centers. Around 60,000 have already done so, they say -- and many more are expected, despite Beijing's efforts to persuade workers to stay in cities and train for potential new jobs.

Mr. Fan, a 55-year-old grandfather, helps support his grandchildren as well as himself and his wife -- and one of his two sons, now working as an apprentice after his factory wages were cut. Mr. Fan worries his other son, also a migrant worker, will next be out of a job. He offers guests cups of hot water instead of tea because he is trying to scrimp.

Many of the returning workers, like Mr. Fan, have too little income from the land to support their families. Beijing has been encouraging many to lease out their farms to more profitable cooperatives -- which don't share their increased earnings from the crops with the landholders -- at the same time it encouraged their moves into the cities, by loosening rules for doing both in the past few years. Those rules were formalized earlier this year.

 Chinese Migrant Workers Return Home
China's work force returns home to rural areas because of the slowing economy, but the land they used to subsist on is now being farmed by larger companies. (Dec. 1)
Others have no farms to come back to, having seen their land gobbled up by decades of previous Chinese urbanization drives, in which unscrupulous developers and corrupt officials often illegally seized peasants' land.

For workers accustomed to a decade of double-digit growth, China's sudden downturn has come as a shock to the system. Migrant workers -- estimated to make up a tenth of the country's population -- have powered China's economic success in the three decades since free-market reforms began.

They supply the low-cost labor for the country's rapidly growing infrastructure and dominant low-priced exports. The wages they send home have helped spread prosperity from the booming cities into the relatively poor countryside. But the global slump threatens a precarious balance if unemployment continues to grow. Already it has caused China's construction industry to seize up and prompted many factories that once churned out toys, electronics and clothing to cut work forces or close up shop.

Meng Jianzhu, China's minister of public security, told a conference of regional government officials late last month that there are "lots of social problems affecting stability under the current circumstances," the official Xinhua news agency reported. Among the major problems to address, Mr. Meng said: "Work should be improved on serving and managing the floating population." Beijing has been warning local officials to take extra efforts to ensure stability, focusing their efforts on re-employment programs.

National statistics on how many migrant workers have been laid off and returned home aren't available, but regional numbers are significant. Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, estimated at a news conference this month that about 300,000 of the 6.8 million migrant workers from one province, Jiangxi, to the south of Mr. Fan's Anhui province, have returned home.

The situation "is continuing to develop, the number of rural migrant workers returning home is gradually increasing, and we are closely following this," he said. Other provinces have reported similar numbers.

Officials in the central province of Hubei estimate that they've also had 300,000 laid off workers come home just in the past two months. In Hubei's capital, Wuhan, officials estimate that the number will eventually total 600,000 in their city alone.

In Fuyang, the city nearest to Shuangfu, officials tracking returnees note that it's not easy for industrial workers to return to country life or work. "These aren't the same peasants like the peasants of yesterday," says an official from the city's Human Resource and Labor Bureau, stamping his foot one recent cold morning during a 12-hour shift outside the train station. "They don't raise crops, they have skills." He and other officials work to interview at least 200 migrants a day to find out their plans, where they're coming from and which they are returning to. The government also has had the chief local party official of each village conduct a regular head count of returnees.

Minutes after stepping off the train in Fuyang, 18-year-old Liang Wenzheng, just laid off from his job of three years on an electronics assembly line in Dongguan, shoulders his bags and surveys the future. "If I can't find a job, I'll have to farm at home. I don't want to do that -- I'm just 18," he said.

Migrant workers left their villages over the years because there was too little land for them to earn a decent living. China has roughly the same amount of farmable land as the U.S., where only 2% of workers are employed in agriculture. But China has some 730 million rural residents -- more than twice the entire American population.

Between 80 million and 100 million rural residents are either completely landless or don't have access to enough land for subsistence, estimates Joshua Muldavin, professor of geography and Asian studies at Sarah Lawrence College. "The increases right now with the large-scale return of peasants could add tens of millions to that," he says. "Its importance can't be exaggerated in China and internationally."

Despite China's recent prosperity, steamroller-flat Anhui province remains poor. The dirt road leading from the simple brick courtyard home Mr. Fan built heads past piles of charred old cloth shoes -- used as a cheap coal substitute for boiling tofu.

The newest change has come as farmers like Mr. Fan have rented their land to new agribusiness in a government-supported bid to boost rural incomes by combining farms into more efficient, modern operations. Mr. Fan two years ago transferred farming rights to three-fifths of his land -- which totals less than an acre -- to a new company established by a local government official to sell expensive, organically grown vegetables in greenhouses to supermarkets and hotels.

Mr. Fan, like others, got a standard price based on harvesting wheat, a staple but also an extremely cheap crop, while the cooperative has gone on to grow exotic vegetables that fetch higher prices from the new urban middle class.

Mr. Fan's rent from the farming company is about one-seventh what he was making in construction. His wife still supervises farming of the other portion. The combined income makes his family better off than some, but couldn't support his two sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

Mr. Fan, a high-school graduate, was slow to leave his village even as others did. He learned how to be a bricklayer between harvests of wheat, soybeans and corn on his land, which was allocated to his and other families after China's farm communes were disbanded in the last 1970s.

In the mid-1990s, the government redistributed more land to farmers. It continued to keep ownership of the land public, but gave farmers long-term leases. Mr. Fan received one mu, a sixth of an acre, for each of the five people in his household -- himself, his wife, two sons and a grandparent. His family has doubled in size since then.

 After watching his neighbors return prosperous from city jobs for years, Mr. Fan in 2003 ventured hundreds of miles to work as a bricklayer in Heilongjiang province, on China's northern border with Russia. He gradually raised his bricklaying income from 30 yuan a day ($4.30) to 70 yuan.

In 2006, a medicine merchant in Shuangfu, Gao Dongfang, had an idea to raise more valuable vegetables on the village's land using techniques that the villagers didn't know about or couldn't afford. "We wanted to change the way things are done here," said his older brother, Gao Haifei. "It's always been wheat and beans, beans and wheat." The younger Mr. Gao obtained a post as village party secretary, and eventually consolidated 200 acres from farmers in neighboring villages. He brought in an expert from another agribusiness, who introduced vegetables like Israeli green peppers and Taiwanese eggplants.

The business, called Orient Modern Vegetable Cooperative, has earned up to 10 or more times the value from a given piece of land than villagers reaped using their traditional techniques and crops. Mr. Fan's wife signed a 10-year contract with the firm in 2006 while he was away working. The lease brings in 3,500 yuan per year, equal to $513.

This fall, Mr. Fan went to a new construction site, this time in Wuxi, a booming lakeside city near Shanghai. Days after he arrived to work on a 15-story, high-end apartment building, he started hearing rumors that the developer was having trouble selling apartments and wouldn't be able to pay his contractors. Two weeks later, the foreman of Mr. Fan's 40-man work team told them to collect their last paychecks and go home.

Mr. Fan now thinks a lot about his two sons, and what will happen if they also lose their current jobs. "I'm really worried," he says. He thought they would never have to farm again. They have worked as migrant laborers all their adult lives.

His younger son continues to work in a furniture factory. Older son Fan Yaxian, 29, is apprenticing as a truck driver after his factory wages were cut. "I don't know how to farm," Fan Yaxian says. He hopes to start his own small business.

Mr. Fan has no such aspirations. "I don't have a head for business," he says. "I can only go down the path of a migrant worker. If I can't be a migrant worker, I don't have any other ideas."

—Ellen Zhu in Shanghai and Andrew Batson in Beijing contributed to this article.
Write to Shai Oster at

25991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: India names mastermind on: December 03, 2008, 05:39:04 AM
MUMBAI -- India has accused a senior leader of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba of orchestrating last week's terror attacks that killed at least 172 people here, and demanded the Pakistani government turn him over and take action against the group.

Just two days before hitting the city, the group of 10 terrorists who ravaged India's financial capital communicated with Yusuf Muzammil and four other Lashkar leaders via a satellite phone that they left behind on a fishing trawler they hijacked to get to Mumbai, a senior Mumbai police official told The Wall Street Journal. The entire group also underwent rigorous training in a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the official said.

More on the Attacks
Complete Coverage: Terror in MumbaiEyewitness: 'Five Weapons Pointed at My Chest'Video: Indian Stars Hold Mumbai VigilVideo: Gunfight FootageMr. Muzammil had earlier been in touch with an Indian Muslim extremist who scoped out Mumbai locations for possible attack before he was arrested early this year, said another senior Indian police official. The Indian man, Faheem Ahmed Ansari, had in his possession layouts drawn up for the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel and Mumbai's main railway station, both prime targets of last week's attack, the police official said.

Mr. Ansari, who also made sketches and maps of locations in southern Mumbai that weren't attacked, had met Mr. Muzammil and trained at the same Lashkar camp as the terrorists in last week's attack, an official said.

U.S. officials agreed that Mr. Muzammil was a focus of their attention in the attacks, though they stopped short of calling him the mastermind. "That is a name that is definitely on the radar screen," a U.S. counterterrorism official said.

Information gathered in the probe also continues to point to a connection to Lashkar-e-Taiba, that official said. Along with a confession from the one gunman captured in the attacks, officials cited phone calls intercepted by satellite during the attacks that connected the assailants to members of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan, and the recovered satellite phone from the boat.

View Full Image

Getty Images
STANDING WATCH: Police on Tuesday guard Mumbai's main rail station, a target of last week's terror attack -- plotted, India says, by a Pakistani militant.
It also emerged Tuesday that U.S. authorities had warned Indian officials of a pending attack by sea. Hasan Gafoor, Mumbai police commissioner, told reporters there was a general warning issued in September that hotels could be targeted as well, after the bombing of the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad.

Two militants arrested in early 2007 also told police officials then that they were part of a band of eight Lashkar members who slipped into India by boat from Karachi, Pakistan, and made their way to Mumbai, an Indian police official in Kashmir said in an interview Tuesday. The group broke into pairs -- just as last week's attackers did -- and made their way north using safehouses provided by local sympathizers, the police official said.

The evidence cited by investigators is giving fresh ammunition to the Indian government, which has long tried to pressure Pakistan into cracking down on Lashkar-e-Taiba. India claims the group enjoys support from elements of the Pakistani intelligence agency. Pakistan denies that and outlawed the organization in 2002, but has done little to curtail its operations.

Mr. Muzammil's name is on a list of people -- numbering about 20 in all -- that India gave Pakistan earlier this week, demanding their immediate extradition, a senior Pakistani official told the Journal. The official said Pakistan was examining India's list of suspects and has assured New Delhi that action would be taken against them if there is evidence of involvement in the attacks.

Any move by the shaky civilian government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari against Lashkar-e-Taiba could create a huge backlash, however, particularly from Islamic groups, said a senior official in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani convened a meeting of all of the country's political parties in the capital to develop a joint response to Indian demands for extradition.

"The government of Pakistan has offered a joint investigation mechanism and we are ready to compose such a team which will help the investigation," Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a televised statement. Mr. Qureshi, however, declined to say whether Pakistan would hand over any of those sought by India.

The Mumbai attacks have ratcheted up tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, who have been exchanging verbal fire for the past several days and sparking fears of a conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive in India Wednesday, as is Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Indian authorities say evidence highlights how Lashkar has broadened its operations to include recruitment of both Indian and Pakistani Muslim extremists.

Lashkar-e-Taiba -- literally Army of the Good -- has been implicated by Indian officials in several recent terrorist attacks on Indian soil. The group initially focused on fighting the Indian army in the disputed state of Kashmir. Over the years, it has expanded its cause into the rest of India and aims to establish Islamic rule.

India has told Pakistan that the latest attacks in Mumbai were masterminded by Mr. Muzammil, aided by others in Lashkar's senior ranks including an operative named Asrar Shah, according to a senior Pakistani official. Mr. Muzammil, a Pakistani in his mid-30s, became head of Lashkar-e-Taiba's anti-Indian planning cell some three months ago, according to Dipankar Banerjee, director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, an independent think tank in New Delhi. Indian authorities believe he is in Pakistan but officials there haven't acknowledged that.

India also claims the attacks were approved by Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, the Pakistani official said. Mr. Saeed is the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent organization of the Lashkar group. Mr. Saeed, who is free in Pakistan, denied the accusations. "India has always accused me without any evidence," he told Pakistan's GEO News television channel.

Indian investigators -- helped in part by the testimony of the one terrorist they captured alive, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab -- say they now possess solid proof. "We have made substantial progress in the investigation," said A.N. Roy, director general of the State Police of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located.

According to Mumbai police chief Hasan Gafoor, Mr. Kasab told interrogators that he and fellow gunmen spent between a year and 18 months in a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp.

View Full Image

Getty Images
An armed policeman guards the Victoria Terminus station on Tuesday in Mumbai.
The 10 militants left Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Nov. 23 aboard a ship called the Al Husseini, which also carried a crew of seven, another senior police official said. Investigators believe that all the 10 gunmen were Pakistani because they spoke Punjabi or Punjabi-accented Urdu.

When they entered Indian waters, the terrorists hijacked a fishing trawler called the Kuber and took its five crew members prisoner. The terrorists transferred four of them to the Al Husseini and they were subsequently killed, police believe. The terrorists kept the Kuber's lead crewman alive and sailed close to Mumbai.

The terrorists abandoned the Kuber in haste, fearing detection by an approaching vessel, the senior police official said. In the process, they forgot their satellite phone on the Kuber. Investigators found in the call log the numbers of five people, including Mr. Muzammil, two of his deputies and his personal aide, the senior police official said. Indian officials had already intercepted phone conversations made while the terrorists were traveling to Mumbai.

Indian Muslim leaders are skeptical of Lashkar's reach into India. But police say Lashkar has increasingly sought contacts and recruits among Indian extremists. In October, for instance, five Muslims from the southern state of Kerala were recruited into Lashkar-e-Taiba and traveled to the Indian part of Kashmir, according to T.K. Vinod Kumar, Kerala's deputy inspector-general of police. They tried to cross the line of control that runs between India and Pakistan and reach training camps on the Pakistani side.

Four among the group were killed in a firefight with the Indian military during that attempt. The fifth, construction worker Abdul Jabbar, was arrested two weeks ago, Mr. Kumar says.

Unlike other Pakistani-based jihadist organizations, Lashkar draws its recruits across a broad social spectrum, from universities as well as among unemployed youths. The majority come from Punjab; Mr. Kasab used to live in the Punjabi village of Faridkot, according to Indian investigators.

In March 2007 when two militants were arrested in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir, the pair told police that Lashkar was looking to start slipping people into India from the sea to avoid heavily guarded land borders. The sea also provided a winter route to Kashmir for Lashkar members, when high mountain passes crossing to India's part of the state are often blanketed by deep snow.
25992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: December 03, 2008, 04:50:48 AM
Senior SOF Editor Don McLean on “Political Correctness”: ”…a doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical, liberal minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”
25993  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: December 02, 2008, 02:45:26 PM
Thanks to Frankfurter for ably handling the class this past Saturday.  Looking forward to seeing everyone every Saturday this month.
25994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: December 02, 2008, 02:29:31 PM

OAKLAND — A 15-year-old gang associate was in critical condition Friday after he was wounded twice by his own gun during a struggle with a 32-year-old he pointed the weapon at, police said.

The man, who police said was a former paratrooper in the Honduras army, was not hurt and waited for police to respond to where the confrontation happened. He gave a statement to investigators before he was arrested on suspicion of assault while the district attorney's office determines whether he acted in self-defense.

Police would not release the name of the teen or the adult pending the district attorney's review.

The shooting happened just before 2 a.m. Friday in the 3700 block of Foothill Boulevard in the Fruitvale district. The area is a known hangout of certain gang members and police said the 15-year-old is associated with the gang.

The man was on his cell phone when he was confronted by the teen, and possibly some other youths, said Officer Robert Trevino, who is investigating the case with Sgt. Drennon Lindsey.  The teen pointed a pistol at the man, who had never seen him before, and used a street term to see if he was in another gang, police said. Police said the man is not a gang member and has only been in Oakland eight months, seeking work.  When the teen was momentarily distracted by a passing car, the man grabbed the gun and the two began struggling over it, Trevino said. During the struggle the gun went off twice, hitting the teen in the neck and shoulder, police said.

He was taken to a local hospital by friends where he underwent surgery. The man waited for police to come to the scene and gave them the pistol.
25995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Saakashvili speaks on: December 02, 2008, 12:42:09 PM
Since Russia invaded Georgia last August, the international community seems stuck on one question about how the war started: Did the Georgian military act irresponsibly to take control of Tskhinvali in the South Ossetia region of Georgia?

Russian armor on the move in Georgia, August 2008.
This question has been pushed to the center in large degree by a fierce, multimillion-dollar Russian PR campaign that hinges on leaked, very partial, and misleading reports from a military observer from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that claimed Georgia responded militarily in South Ossetia without sufficient provocation by Russia. Judging from recent media coverage, this campaign has been successful.

Focusing on this question distracts from Russia's intense, blatant policy of regime change that has long aimed to destabilize Georgia through ethnic manipulation, and thus thwart our democracy while stopping NATO's expansion. Furthermore, it has never been in dispute whether our forces entered South Ossetia. I have always openly acknowledged that I ordered military action in South Ossetia -- as any responsible democratic leader would have done, and as the Georgian Constitution required me to do in defense of the country.

I made this decision after being confronted by two facts. First, Russia had massed hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers on the border between Russian and Georgia in the area of South Ossetia. We had firm intelligence that they were crossing into Georgia, a fact later confirmed by telephone intercepts verified by the New York Times and others -- and a fact never substantially denied by Russia. (We had alerted the international community both about the military deployment and an inflow of mercenaries early on Aug. 7.)

Second, for a week Russian forces and their proxies engaged in a series of deadly provocations, shelling Georgian villages that were under my government's control -- with much of the artillery located in Tskhinvali, often within sites controlled by Russian peacekeepers. Then, on Aug. 7, Russia and its proxies killed several Georgian peacekeepers. Russian peacekeepers and OSCE observers admitted that they were incapable of preventing the lethal attacks. In fact, the OSCE had proven impotent in preventing the Russians from building two illegal military bases inside South Ossetia during the preceding year.

So the question is not whether Georgia ordered military action -- including targeting of the artillery sites that were shelling villages controlled by our government. We did.

The question is, rather: What democratic polity would have acted any differently while its citizens were being slaughtered as its sovereign territory was being invaded? South Ossetia and Abkhazia are internationally recognized as part of Georgia, and even some areas within these conflict zones were under Georgian government control before the Russian invasion. We fought to repel a foreign invasion. Georgians never stepped beyond Georgian territory.

My government has urged the international community to open an independent, unbiased investigation into the origins of the war. I first proposed this on Aug. 17, standing with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Tbilisi. I offered to make every shred of evidence and every witness available. Russia has yet to accede to such terms of inquiry.

Also, last Friday I stood for several hours before a commission established by the Georgian Parliament, chaired by a leader of an opposition party, to investigate the conduct of the war. This is the first time that any leader from this part of the world has been scrutinized live on national television for his or her wartime decisions by a legislative investigation. I have also required every member of my administration and military to make themselves available to the committee.

The real test of the legitimacy of Russia's actions should be based not on whether Georgia's democratically elected leadership came to the defense of its own people on its own land, but on an assessment of the following questions. Was it Georgia or Russia (and its proxies) that:

- Pursued the de facto annexation of the sovereign territory of a neighboring state?

- Illegally issued passports to residents of a neighboring democracy in order to create a pretext for invasion (to "protect its citizens")?

- Sent hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers across the internationally recognized borders of a neighboring democracy?

- Instigated a series of deadly provocations and open attacks over the course of many months, resulting in civilian casualties?

- Refused to engage in meaningful, bilateral dialogue on peace proposals?

- Constantly blocked all international peacekeeping efforts?

- Refused to attend urgent peace talks on South Ossetia organized by the European Union and the OSCE in late July?

- When the crisis began to escalate, refused to have any meaningful contact (I tried to reach President Dmitry Medvedev on both Aug. 6 and 7, but he refused my calls)?

- Tried to cover up a long-planned invasion by claiming, on Aug. 8, that Georgia had killed 1,400 civilians and engaged in ethnic cleansing -- "facts" quickly disproved by international and Russian human-rights groups?

In today's Opinion Journal


Travels With HillaryMumbai and ObamaMore Immigration Losers


Global View: Media Narratives Feed Terrorist Fantasies
– Bret StephensMain Street: What's Good for GM Could Be Good for America
– William McGurn


Georgia Acted in Self-Defense
– Mikheil SaakashviliAIG Needs a New Deal
– Maurice R. GreenbergGovernors Against State Bailouts
– Rick Perry and Mark Sanford- Refused to permit EU monitors unrestricted access to these conflict areas after the fighting ended, while engaging in the brutal ethnic cleansing of Georgians?

These are the questions that need to be answered. The fact that none can be answered in Russia's favor underscores the grave risks of returning to business as usual. Russia sees Georgia as a test. If the international response is not firm, Moscow will make other moves to redraw the region's map by intimidation or force.

Responding firmly to the Putin-Medvedev government implies neither the isolation nor the abandonment of Russia; it can be achieved in tandem with continuing engagement of, and trade with, Russia. But it does require holding Russia to account. Moscow must honor its sovereign commitments and fully withdraw its troops to pre-August positions. It must allow unrestricted EU monitoring, and accede to the international consensus that these territories are Georgia. Such steps are not bellicose; they are simply the necessary course to contain an imperial regime.

We all hope that Russia soon decides to join the international community as a full, cooperative partner. This would be the greatest contribution to Georgia's stability. In the interim, we should make sure that we do not sacrifice democracies like Georgia that are trying to make this critical part of the world more stable, secure and free.

Mr. Saakashvili is president of Georgia.

25996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 02, 2008, 12:29:46 PM
Great scathingly funny rant from Fred Thompson in the clip at on the Meltdown and how to fix it.
25997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: December 02, 2008, 12:15:58 PM
For purposes of self-justification, Azam Amir Kasab, the only terrorist taken alive in last week's Mumbai massacre, offered that the murder of Jews in the city's Chabad House was undertaken to avenge Israeli atrocities on Palestinians. Two other terrorists cited instances of anti-Muslim Hindu violence as the answer to the question, "Why are you doing this to us?" before mowing down 14 unarmed people at the Oberoi Hotel. And if dead terrorists could talk, we would surely hear Abu Ghraib mentioned as among their reasons for singling out U.S. and British hostages.
David KleinOne suspects the terrorists spent far too much time listening to the BBC World Service.

Let's hasten to add that by no means should the BBC alone be singled out. When it comes to terrorists and their grievances, nearly all the Western media have provided them with a rich diet on which to feed.

In the spring of 2005, Newsweek ran with a thinly sourced item about the Quran being flushed down a Guantanamo toilet. Result: At least 15 people were killed in Afghan riots.

Newsweek later retracted the story, which was the right thing to do but also, in its way, exceptional. Compare that to the refusal of French reporter Charles Enderlin and his station, France 2, to retract or even express doubt about his September 2000 report on Mohammed al-Durrah, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly killed by Israeli soldiers during an exchange of gunfire in the Gaza Strip -- an exchange Mr. Enderlin did not witness.

In an exhaustive piece in the June 2003 issue of the Atlantic, James Fallows observed that the evidence that the boy could not have been shot by an Israeli bullet is overwhelming, while the evidence that the entire incident was staged is, at the very least, impressive. In France, the story has been the subject of various lawsuits. In Israel, however, and throughout the Muslim world, Durrah became the poster child for a five-year intifada that took several thousand lives.

Maybe Durrah was somewhere in the minds of the Mumbai killers. If not, there was no shortage of other Israeli "atrocities" for them to choose from, mostly fictitious or trumped up and all endlessly cited in Western media reports: the "siege" of Gaza; the 2002 Jenin "massacre"; the 1982 massacres (by Lebanese Phalangists) in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut; the execution of Egyptian POWs in 1967.

All these fables have real-world consequences, and not only for Israelis. In July 2006, an American named Naveed Afzal Haq ambled into the offices of the Seattle Jewish Federation and shot six people, killing one. One of the survivors testified that Mr. Haq "stated that he was a Muslim, [and] this was his personal statement against Jews and the Bush administration for giving money to Jews, and for us Jews for giving money to Israel, about Hezbollah, the war in Iraq." Wherever did he get those ideas?

As it turns out, often from terrorist suspects themselves, offering their testimonials of Israeli or U.S. malevolence to a credulous Western media. In the Quran-in-the-toilet imbroglio, for instance, the Nation's Ari Berman filed a piece titled "Newsweek Was Right," which cited accounts by former Guantanamo detainees of how their captors abused the Holy Book. Unmentioned in any of this were the instructions contained in al Qaeda's "Manchester Document," obtained by British police in 2000, that told followers to "complain of mistreatment while in prison" and "insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security."

Or consider the tale of Ali Shalal Qaissi, the subject of a New York Times story in March 2006. Mr. Qaissi, founder of the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons, claimed to be the black-hooded man standing on a box, attached to wires, ghoulishly photographed by the Abu Ghraib jailers. The Times thought enough of his story to put it on page one, until it turned out he wasn't the man. A March 18, 2006, "Editor's Note" tells us something about how these stories make it to print:

"The Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph. Mr. Qaissi's account had already been broadcast and printed by other outlets, including PBS and Vanity Fair, without challenge. Lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib vouched for him. Human rights workers seemed to support his account."

Of course, it's always possible to fall for a well-told lie. But it's worth wondering why a media that treats nearly every word uttered by the U.S., British or Israeli governments as inherently suspect has proved so consistently credulous when it comes to every dubious or defamatory claim made against those governments. Or, for that matter, why the media has been so intent on magnifying genuine scandals (like Abu Ghraib) to the point that they become the moral equivalent of 9/11. Some caution is in order: Terrorists, of all people, might actually believe what they read in the papers.
25998  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: December 02, 2008, 12:09:14 PM
I should have a rough edit of DLO 3 by Thursday.
25999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: December 02, 2008, 12:00:14 PM
Don't hire whom you can't fire cheesy

Barack Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State is either a political master stroke, or a classic illustration of the signature self-confidence that will come back to haunt him. We're inclined toward the latter view, but then Mr. Obama is the one who has to live with her -- and her husband.

APThe President-elect's political calculation seems clear enough: Better to have the Clinton machine as allies than as critics on the outside of his Administration. His early choices are loaded with Clintonians of various stripes, from John Podesta to run his transition team, Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff, Eric Holder at Justice, and now the former first lady herself as chief diplomat.

This is startling for a candidate who explicitly promised Democrats in the primaries that he offered an escape from the Clinton political method. But perhaps Mr. Obama figures any disillusion will be minor and that this will unite the Democratic Party behind him. Much as retaining Robert Gates at the Pentagon may mute attacks from some Republicans, the choice of Mrs. Clinton will help to insulate Mr. Obama from attacks by fellow Democrats. He also disarms the Clinton campaign and fund-raising machinery for any potential challenge in 2012.

These political calculations must be predominant, because Mrs. Clinton brings no special policy expertise to the job. Her best attribute may be her undeniable work ethic. She has focused on foreign policy in her Senate committee assignments, but without much notable influence on policy or events. Her criticism of the Bush foreign policy has echoed the conventional view that the Administration wasn't diligent enough in trying to talk to the Iranians, the North Koreans and other hard cases. In other words, Mrs. Clinton is likely to pick right up where Condoleezza Rice and Nick Burns left off trying to negotiate with these enemies in the second Bush term.

It's also strange if Mr. Obama is trying to invoke the Clinton Presidency as a foreign-policy golden age. We recall it mostly as an era of illusory peace as problems festered with too little U.S. attention. Al Qaeda was left unchecked, Saddam Hussein banished U.N. inspectors and exploited Oil for Food, North Korea embarked on a secret nuclear program, Russia's post-Cold War spring faded, and Pakistan's A.Q. Khan spread nuclear-bomb technology around the world.

Mr. Obama's biggest gamble is associating his Presidency with the Clinton political circus. At least as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton will have a specific role, as opposed to the ill-defined mandate of a Vice President. (Speaking of the Veep-elect, with Mr. Gates and the Clintons around, what's left for Joe Biden to do? State was the job he's long wanted, and he must be dying inside trying to abide by Team Obama's gag order.)

Flashback: Clinton's Foreign Funders
The Riady Connection – 07/21/00Mr. Gore's Scandal – 03/03/00The Obstruction of Justice Department? – 09/30/99Clinton's Johnny – 04/06/99But that still leaves Bill Clinton and his gift both of irrepressible gab and for inevitable controversy. His post-Presidency has been more or less a vast fund-raising operation -- for himself, his library and legacy, and his charitable causes. Mr. Obama said yesterday that Mr. Clinton has agreed to disclose the 200,000 or so donors to his foundation, and what a list it is likely to be. Look for Arab sheikhs, Latin American monopolists and assorted dubious characters.

The potential for blatant conflicts of interest with Mrs. Clinton's new role is great, and in appointing her Mr. Obama seems to be betting that the disclosure will diminish the problem. Given the Clinton history with the Riadys of Indonesia, Johnny Chung, the Lippo Group and Arkansas compadre Thomas "Mack" McLarty's business travels through the Americas, we hope the President-elect knows what he's getting into. The Senate has an obligation to inspect and make public the Clinton global fund-raising machine check by check, with names, dates and precise amounts.

In today's Opinion Journal


Travels With HillaryMumbai and ObamaMore Immigration Losers


Global View: Media Narratives Feed Terrorist Fantasies
– Bret StephensMain Street: What's Good for GM Could Be Good for America
– William McGurn


Georgia Acted in Self-Defense
– Mikheil SaakashviliAIG Needs a New Deal
– Maurice R. GreenbergGovernors Against State Bailouts
– Rick Perry and Mark SanfordIn choosing Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama is also hiring someone he can't easily fire. This is usually a mistake, as President Bush learned with Colin Powell. The ability to let an adviser take the blame for a policy blunder is crucial to protecting Presidential credibility. But if Mr. Obama tries to let Mrs. Clinton go, he will be taking on the entire Clinton entourage -- not just Bill, but Carville, Begala, Ickes, Blumenthal, McAuliffe and so on. That same chorus will work to burnish her reputation via media leaks at the expense of her colleagues -- and the President -- when there is a mistake to explain.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will prove to be crafty enough to manage all of this and the other egos he is assembling. One good sign is that his choice as his National Security Adviser, former Marine General James Jones, is a commanding enough presence to mediate bureaucratic disputes. Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice never adequately did that in their first term.

On the other hand, the transition spin that Mr. Obama's Cabinet choices are inspired by Abraham Lincoln's "Team of Rivals" also suggest more than a little hubris. Honest Abe had to deal with jealous advisers and treacherous generals to win the Civil War. We're not sure even that would be adequate preparation for the raucous, uncontrollable political entitlement that has always driven the Clintons.

President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that Eric Holder, his nominee for attorney general, "has the combination of toughness and independence" needed for the job.

The key questions here are "toughness" about what and "independence" from whom?

Certainly Mr. Holder was tough during his time as No. 2 official in the Clinton Justice Department. He overrode the recommendations of career prosecutors and consistently carried out Attorney General Janet Reno's "see no evil "approach to the burgeoning Clinton scandals, whether they involved illegal Asian fundraising during the 1996 campaign or Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority" meeting at the Buddhist temple in Los Angeles. In every case, Ms. Reno and her department declined to appoint independent counsels to investigate matters.

As for "independence," Mr. Holder didn't exercise much in the last hours of the Clinton White House, when he was caught up in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who had been convicted of oil trading with the radical Islamic regime in Iran. Pressing for a pardon for Mr. Rich was his lawyer, Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel.

After the pardon was granted, it became clear that Mr. Rich didn't even qualify. Under Justice Department guidelines, pardons are supposed to be requested no sooner than five years after the completion of a sentence in a criminal case. As a fugitive, Mr. Rich wasn't eligible since he didn't serve his sentence, but the prosecutors in his case were never consulted about the pardon decision.

Mr. Holder later testified that he told White House counsel Beth Nolan the day before the pardon was issued that he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" on the matter. The Associated Press also discovered that "to make matters worse, Holder had asked Quinn for his help in becoming attorney general in the event then-Vice President Al Gore won the 2000 election."

Mr. Holder told Congress that with hindsight he wouldn't have supported the pardon, saying he never learned the details of the case amid the flurry of last-minute pardons issued by the White House. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen suggests the pardon episode tells us Mr. Holder "could not say no to power. The Rich pardon request had power written all over it." This is "independence"?

Critics of the pardon spanned party lines, including not only Clinton confidant Lanny Davis but Rep. Henry Waxman, then ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, who called the pardon an end-run around the judicial process. In the press, it was widely noted that Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise, has contributed $450,000 to Mr. Clinton's presidential library, $1.1 million to the Democratic Party and at least $109,000 to Hillary Clinton's Senate candidacy.

All in all, Mr. Holder seems an odd choice to bring "real change" and the new ethical tone that President-elect Obama promised during the campaign. Here's hoping Senators don't give the charming but slippery Mr. Holder a pass during his confirmation hearings.

-- John Fund

26000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan' on: December 02, 2008, 11:56:39 AM
Despite demands from India in the wake of the Nov. 26 militant attacks on Mumbai, Pakistan is unlikely to be able to shift troops around to please New Delhi (or Washington, for that matter). Islamabad’s military capacity was already extremely constrained before the attacks and has only become more limited.

Pakistani daily The News reported Dec. 1 that Pakistan’s military is monitoring the border with India closely and has not detected any mobilization of Indian troops in the wake of the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai. Meanwhile, Press Trust of India quoted an Indian army official saying no orders for mobilization have been given, and the Indian External Affairs Ministry rebutted television reports that said the Indian-Pakistani cease-fire was being suspended.

As tensions mount between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks — in which at least some of the attackers apparently arrived by boat from Karachi — the possibility has loomed of increased troop deployments along the border shared by the two South Asian rivals. Meanwhile, an assertive New Delhi, with little choice but to react strongly to the attacks, appears likely to demand increased Pakistani operations in Kashmir to control militancy there, while the incoming U.S. administration will be placing even more demands on Islamabad in the war against jihadists along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Pakistan, however, is in a military bind. It is already stretched thin and does not have the resources to fulfill its core mission while also taking on other operations to placate India and the United States — meaning New Delhi and Washington are likely to be disappointed.

Before the attacks in Mumbai, the Pakistani military was already overwhelmed with four major operational demands, none of which has gone away:

Defend the border with India, being prepared for possible conventional Indian military aggression.
Combat the home-grown Taliban insurgency raging across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Pashtun districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Combat a much lower-intensity — but nonetheless very real — mounting insurgency in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Provide heightened military security in Islamabad and other major urban centers in order to defend against an uptick in radical Islamist suicide bombings domestically.
(Further compounding things, ethnic clashes and rioting broke out in Karachi on Nov. 28, with scores of people being killed on a daily basis. Though the army itself has not yet been called in — paramilitary units are currently attempting to rein in the situation — Karachi-based V Corps is closely monitoring the potential need for military force.)

Strategically, defending the border with India is the military’s paramount objective because it represents the most direct existential threat. Pakistan’s 550,000-strong force is only half the size of the active Indian army, and New Delhi also fields technologically superior hardware, from the latest Russian T-90 main battle tanks to the modern Su-30MKI “Flanker” fighter. As such, Pakistan is very hesitant to pull away military units from this mission. (Islamabad has committed resources to the jihadist fight along the western border only under immense U.S. pressure. Currently centered around Swat in the NWFP, this mission has been complicated as U.S. airstrikes by unmanned aerial vehicles have inched ever deeper into Pakistani territory.)

(Click to enlarge map)
Looking at the Indian border, Pakistan is most vulnerable in the open lowlands of Punjab. Not only does this region offer little in the way of terrain features that would impede the movement of large mechanized formations, there is little distance at this point between the Indian border and the Pakistani heartland — where most of the population resides along with Pakistan’s core industrial and agricultural sectors. The more barren terrain of the southern border along Sindh province is also vulnerable, but it is also more distant from the core population areas that Pakistan needs to defend. The mountainous Kashmir region, while it is the most disputed area of the border, is also extremely difficult terrain that favors the defense.

With almost no strategic depth to insulate its core from any potential Indian attack, Pakistan maintains six of its nine Corps formations in Punjab. This includes offensive “Strike” Corps (I and II) designed to make pre-emptive thrusts into Indian territory in the event of war in an attempt to acquire breathing room and leverage for subsequent negotiations. At times of increasing tension with India, the overarching military imperative for Islamabad becomes the conventional reinforcement of these six corps. This would have to come at the expense of other missions such as those that Washington and New Delhi would like to see. Indeed, Pakistan already suggested as much when it told commanders in Afghanistan that it would have to withdraw forces from the western theater in the event of a crisis with India.

But Pakistan’s problems run deeper than its military’s myriad and conflicting responsibilities. The civilian government is weak at an extremely challenging point in the country’s history — when an undercurrent of radical Islamist leanings is on the rise and the country’s intelligence service, the ISI, is infiltrated by both jihadist and Taliban elements. Even if it had more freedom of action, the military could hope to do little more than keep a lid on these deepening crises. If the Pakistani army was unable to muster the resources for the demands being placed on it before the Mumbai attacks, it is unlikely to be able to meet the demands of a hostile India and a new U.S. administration.
Pages: 1 ... 518 519 [520] 521 522 ... 689
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!